Spending by voting machine companies picking up



AP Political Writer


December 19, 2004, 11:39 AM EST


ALBANY, N.Y. -- In just the last six months, companies looking to cash in on New York state's expected move to replace its aging lever-action voting machines with electronic models have spent more than $357,000 on lobbying, according to a new report.


The report from the New York state chapter of Common Cause, a copy of which was obtained Sunday by The Associated Press, shows that over the past three years, voting machine companies have spent more than $854,000 on lobbying in the state.


The spending figures come from required filings with the state Lobbying Commission.


Rachel Leon, executive director of Common Cause/New York, said the spending is likely just the "tip of the iceberg" because lobbyists only have to report spending aimed at influencing legislation, not the lobbying of state agencies such as the state Board of Elections.


It is the board that is seeking to work out rules under which local governments across the state will purchase new voting machines in time for the 2006 elections in compliance with the Help America Vote Act. New York is expected to receive more than $100 million in federal funds to purchase the new machines under HAVA, which was adopted in the wake of the Florida hanging-chad voting fiasco in the 2000 presidential election.


At issue, among other things, is whether the state will adopt rules that would limit local governments to buying only one or two models of the new machines or have standards that are flexible enough so many different machines would be allowed. A decision on that is expected next year.


The new machines were supposed to have been in place in time for the 2004 election, but New York and many other states obtained waivers that extended the deadline to 2006.


"Our concern is that in this high-pressure situation, are lawmakers and the state Board of Elections listening to the lobbyists for the voting machine vendors rather than regular New Yorkers?" Leon said.


Leon said she expected the lobbying expenditures by the voting machines companies to top $1 million before the end of the year.


The Common Cause report, based on spending through October of this year, shows the heaviest outlays coming from two major players in the voting machine business: Diebold Election Systems ($275,000) and Sequoia Voting Systems ($265,771).


Other reported spending comes from Election Systems & Software ($159,319); Danaher Controls ($58,500); Liberty Election Systems ($48,635); Accupoll ($42,283); and Voting Machines Service Center ($5,000).


Not included in the total is $198,000 spent on lobbying state government over the past two years by Accenture, which has been involved in some other state with producing electronic voter registration lists required by HAVA. The company's lobbying efforts have largely involved other technology issues in New York, according to its Lobbying Commission reports.


The Common Cause report comes as the state Assembly's Election Law Committee is scheduled to meet Monday in New York City to consider how the 2004 election went and what it shows about HAVA implementation in the state.


According to Leon, the election didn't go very smoothly. She said the Common Cause election helpline got over 23,000 calls on Election Day, more than any other state where such lines are in use.


Copyright 2004, The Associated Press

Copyright Newsday, Inc. Produced by Newsday Electronic Publishing.



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