New York - Legislature tries again to resolve voting system dispute


Legislature tries again to resolve voting system dispute



AP Political Writer


March 7, 2005, 4:23 PM EST


ALBANY, N.Y. -- Ten New York state lawmakers sat down Monday in the latest attempt to resolve differences over how to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act and bring new voting machines to the state. They didn't.


After arguing, reasonably civilly, for more than an hour, the leaders of the joint Senate-Assembly conference committee agreed to meet again, possibly later this week.


The sides continued their basic disagreement over who should control the process. The state Senate's Republican majority wants to leave much of the decision-making up to the state Board of Elections. Democrats who control the Assembly want the Legislature to largely spell out how things will run.


Keith Wright, a Manhattan Democrat and chairman of the Assembly Election Law Committee, derided the elections board as "the government equivalent of the Addams Family."


The two sides argued over what should be accepted as voter identification and how the state should decide which voting technology to allow, among other things.


"Last year, we allowed bank statements, valid photo ID, government documents, utility bills. How much more do you want?" asked state Sen. Nicholas Spano, a Westchester County Republican whose narrow re-election win last year was only confirmed last month after a lengthy court battle that revolved, in part, around voter registrations.


Saying he was concerned about voter fraud, Spano told his colleagues, to much laughter, "I have lots of new ideas."


At stake is more than $200 million in federal HAVA funding that New York could use to buy modern voting machines. HAVA, which requires new voting technology and statewide master voter registration lists, was adopted in the wake of the disputed presidential election in Florida in 2000.


Under HAVA, the states must have their new systems in place for the 2006 elections.


"Right now, New York state is dead last in implementing the HAVA Act," said Rachel Leon, executive director of New York's Common Cause, at a news conference before the conference committee meeting.


Last year, a similar legislative conference committee was unable to resolve differences between the Senate and Assembly majorities. The Monday meeting was the first for a new conference committee on the issue.


Copyright 2005, The Associated Press




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