Task force: Replace flawed voting machines


By Dan Janison

Staff Writer


March 21, 2005


Citing "horrible potential scenarios," a mayoral task force Monday urged the state to act quickly toward replacing ancient voting machines.


State lawmakers' continuing failure to agree on key legislation could squander $220 million in federal aid, draw a federal lawsuit, or bring a "Florida-like disaster" in 2006, with mass confusion at the polls, the task force warned.


"As each day passes, the risks grow exponentially," Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Election Modernization Task Force warned in its first report.


As noted in the 18-page report, the city's polling devices were made by Shoup Voting Machine more than 40 years ago and are no longer made.


Replacing them has proven to be a boondoggle -- for decades. Now the city and state face federal deadlines to take action under the 2002 Help America Vote Act, enacted in the wake of the 2000 presidential fiasco.


According to the task force report, New York is the only state that has not passed the legislation necessary to begin compliance with the act or to replace voting machines.


"Continued delay is unacceptable," the task force said.


Sisa Moyo, spokeswoman for the Assembly speaker's office, said yesterday that "pieces are coming together" toward the necessary bills.


The task force has now joined others voicing new urgency, as did state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer on Feb. 7. Some critics say only a potentially sloppy, fast-tracked bid process for new machines might replace the equipment in time for the 2006 elections.


That's the target date for reform under the federal law.


"There is a lot of urgency," said Gene Russianoff of the New York Public Interest Research Group. "There's a general consensus that we need to modernize our voting machines, though no consensus on how to do it."


Douglas Kellner, a Democratic member of the city Board of Elections, said: "All the checks and balances, in terms of accountability and open bidding and proper drafting -- which are well intended and desirable for a contract this size -- would take 18 months.


"Well, the 2006 election is less than 18 months away."


Copyright 2005, Newsday, Inc.



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