Better than the lever?



November 3, 2005


ALBANY - The state Board of Elections gave tentative approval yesterday to regulations governing new machines that are supposed to replace that icon of New York voting - the lever-action model.


Critics immediately charged the board was shutting out the public and that New York could wind up with voting machines that might have security concerns.


Under the federal Help America Vote Act, adopted after the disputed 2000 presidential election, the mechanical lever machines are supposed to be replaced in time for the 2006 election season.


The regulations approved yesterday by the board mirror orders given it by the State Legislature. The regulations will allow electronic voting machines, including touch-screen models and optical scan machinery, as long as it includes a backup system that would serve disabled voters.


The board action will lead to a 45-day public comment period after which the board can modify the regulations.


Election officials are rushing against the 2006 deadline amid warnings that it may not be met. Prospective new voting machines must still be certified by the board as meeting the regulations and it is only after that is done that counties can begin purchasing the new machines.


Neal Rosenstein, of the New York Public Interest Research Group, complained the board acted without waiting to hear from a Citizens Advisory Committee the State Legislature ordered to be set up. The committee has had only one meeting.


He said the board also wasn't properly addressing concerns over keeping the new electronic machines secure.


Aimee Allaud of the League of Women Voters also raised concerns about the board not waiting to hear from the advisory committee, but praised the commissioners for ordering hearings. "That's an excellent idea," Allaud said.


Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.



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