Illness may delay NY's choice of new voting machines



Associated Press Writer

1:19 PM EST, January 23, 2008




The state Board of Elections was down one voting member Wednesday, leaving three people _ two Republicans and a Democrat _ to reach unanimous agreement on a new style of voting machine by Wednesday's court-ordered deadline.


If they can't decide by the end of the day, they will face the enmity of a federal judge who has threatened to appoint a special master to handle the issue, or even throw board members in jail on contempt charges.


The Help America Vote Act was enacted after the messy 2000 presidential elections to ensure voting accuracy and access for the disabled. New York is years behind federal deadlines to comply with the law.


U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe approved the board's latest plan to bring the state into compliance just last week.


But Democrat Evelyn Aquila was undergoing open heart surgery Wednesday, leaving the other members to deliver the three-vote majority required even in her absence. The board's two co-executive directors don't have votes.


Whether the remaining Republicans and Democrat can reach agreement is in question given the partisan rift that has divided the board up to now.


Sharpe, who is overseeing a lawsuit against the state by the U.S. Department of Justice, has said he was frustrated with the board's "paralysis."


Officials also announced Wednesday that Peter Kosinski, the board's Republican co-executive director, decided to step down. He was immediately replaced by Todd Valentine, also a Republican, who had previously acted as the board's special counsel.


Messages left for Kosinski were not immediately returned, but Helena Donohue, a Republican commissioner, said he left to join the state Senate Majority counsel's office.


"He didn't want any fanfare," Donohue said. "He just wanted to go away, and he didn't really want any parties or speeches or anything."


Associated Press Writer Richard Richtmyer contributed to this report from Albany.


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