New York will continue to use old voting machines




July 30, 2007


ALBANY - Despite mandated changes, voters probably will use the same antiquated lever machines deployed for decades, in the September primary and November general elections.


The Senate and Assembly passed legislation last week permitting the continued use of lever equipment because computerized replacements have yet to be selected and installed. If lawmakers had not acted, voters likely would have used paper ballots - a method not employed on Long Island and other populous regions for several generations, lawmakers said.


The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Griffo (R-Rome) and Assemb. Ann Margaret Carrozza (D-Queens), permits lever voting machines to be used until New York complies with the federal Help America Vote Act. That could be after the 2008 presidential elections, according to some election officials.


The legislation also requires counties to continue to provide special voting equipment for the disabled - as was done last year for the first time after a Justice Department lawsuit.


"It is critically important that New York State modernize its election system to bring it up to date with new and improved technology," said Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick). "However, any new voting machines must be tested and certified in a sensible way so that our elections continue to be fair for everyone."


The bill amended a 2005 state law barring the use of lever machines, beginning with the Sept. 18 primary, because they aren't accessible to the disabled. New York is the last state to implement HAVA, which seeks to modernize voting, and increase accurate vote counts and accessibility.


Although millions of dollars in federal money has been set aside, HAVA compliance in New York has come in fits and starts. First, the legislature was slow to approve the necessary bill and then decided to scrap the lever machines altogether, infuriating many voters. And county boards of election now are waiting for the state to approve which electronic machines can be purchased.


Griffo said, "Passage of this consensus legislation allows New York to conduct its elections this year without placing undue burden on our county boards of election while we continue to move forward in an effort to update our machines and comply with HAVA."


The bill, adopted unanimously by both houses, was sent to Gov. Eliot Spitzer for consideration. His spokeswoman said Friday that he hadn't yet acted on it.


Copyright 2007, Newsday Inc.