The Legislative Gazette

The Weekly Newspaper of the New York State Government


Voting-rights group rallies for paper-ballot machines



Nov 14, 2005

Gazette staff writer


A week after the state Board of Elections approved regulations for the state’s new voting machines, New Yorkers for Verified Voting and the League of Women Voters held a rally at the Capitol last Monday to advocate the use of optical scan machines.

Optical scan machines are paper ballot-based, whereas a second available option, direct recording electronic machines, or DREs, which are touch-screen models, print out an ATM-like receipt to record the vote.


Concern has surfaced among legislators and interest groups that manufacturers would rather produce a touch screen model, and may not submit an optical scan machine to the Board of Elections for certification.


Each county has the right to use any type of machine certified by the state board.


Bo Lipari, executive director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting, and other speakers said they doubted the ability of touch screen machines to accurately tabulate votes. Lipari also called on the state Board of Elections to require companies that manufacture both models to submit one of each to the board.


“What is the one thing we all want as voters?” shouted Lipari. “We want our vote to count as we cast it, and that is one guarantee that electronic touch screen models can’t provide.”


Lee Daghlian, spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said the board is not to blame if manufacturers do not supply one of each machine for certification.


“We don’t care which machines the counties buy, we just want to make sure they meet the standards,” Daghlian said. “We hope to get a few DREs and an optical scan machine, but legally, we can’t compel any manufacturer to come here.”


Lipari was joined by Assembly members Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, Sandy Galef, D-Ossining, and Robert Reilly, D-Latham, as well as Aimee Allaud, elections specialist at the League of Women Voters.


“The issue is confidence in the voting system,” Allaud said. “We don’t want to have voter confidence further eroded because of a wrong decision on voting machines.”


Allaud said that she wanted to call voters’ attention to the possibility they may not have a choice of voting machine.


Galef said she polled her district, including parts of Westchester and Putnam counties, and 73 percent of respondents said they would prefer to have optical scan machines in the next election.


Lipari pointed to Miami-Dade County, Fla., which spent $24.5 million on touch screen machines, he said, and now the county supervisor is recommending that they abandon the investment.


“In a way, we’re lucky we’re late,” Daghlian said. “We’ve seen what’s happened in states that have had problems and fixed them, and we’ve got the benefit of that.”


“I find it very strange that throughout the world we transact billions of dollars of business without mistakes, but when it comes to elections, we have mistakes,” Reilly said. “I prefer the optical scan personally, but we are committed to giving citizens a choice.”


The federal government passed the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, following the 2000 general election, requiring, among other things, that states replace old lever-action voting machines with advanced models that cater to disabled voters.


HAVA compliance is the impetus behind much of the current debate over voting machines. Daghlian said he believes claims made about the low cost of optical scan machines may be skewed.


“They don’t talk about requirements to make optical scan machines HAVA compliant,” Daghlian said, speaking about special paper ballots required for blind voters. “Many professionals feel that it’s a very unwieldy thing to do.”


Lipari said he believes this claim is “disingenuous.”

“The machine that we have advocated for has a ballot marking device that allows disabled voters to vote independently.”


© 2005 Legislative Gazette



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