Friday, November 30, 2007
To the Editor:
The reported process for replacing Onondaga County's Democratic election commissioner (Nov. 27) reveals why New York's election system tends to be dysfunctional from top to bottom. Instead of starting a search for those qualified to be election officials, party affiliation is treated as the most important criterion.
Is it any surprise that our state Board of Elections is so divided along party lines that the federal government threatens to take over implementation of new voting equipment in New York?
In our state, election commissioners are party appointees, nominated by committees of the two major parties and usually rubber-stamped by county legislatures. Often the chair of the county party also becomes the election commissioner.
Because only members of the two major parties can apply, minority party members and unaffiliated voters have no opportunity to serve as election workers or officials. In addition, our system sometimes requires the hiring of two people when one is needed, since both major parties must have equal representation.
Leadership in a political party does not qualify one to run modern elections. Programs should be instituted at community and/or state colleges to prepare people for certification in election science and management.
Training in managing databases and voting technologies, as well as in relevant managerial skills and in the principles of election integrity, should be required to prepare for positions in our Boards of Elections. While some county Boards of Elections function well, in many cases cronyism, nepotism, and political partisanship trump expertise.
Onondaga County should be wary if the best known applicant for this position already is talking about electronic voting. Viable candidates should know that the National Institute of Science and Technology has said that direct recording electronic voting machines (DREs) cannot be made secure.
They also should know that most of the country now has chosen the more reliable, cost effective and accessible paper ballot scanner system.
Wanda Warren Berry
Board of directors, New Yorkers for Verified Voting
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To the Editor:
With the announcement of Democratic Election Commissioner Ed Szczesniak's retirement, it is our hope that Democratic Party leaders and county Legislators will fill the post with an individual who will ensure the integrity of the election process.
New York state has failed miserably to implement a new voting system. Unable to make a decision, our state legislators have given the authority to purchase new equipment to the appointed election commissioners of our 62 counties. Now the Department of Justice has ordered that the state be fully compliant by the September 2008 primary. If not, the courts will decide what equipment New Yorkers will vote on in this crucial presidential primary.
There are two systems under consideration, Direct Recording Electronic Systems (DRE's) or Paper Ballot/Optical Scan Systems (PB/OP). We have all heard of the problems with DRE touch screen systems and many municipalities around the country who purchased these machines are now turning to optical scan systems.
Good government groups have long advocated for a paper ballot scanner system with ballot marking devices for persons with special needs as the only reliable, accessible, transparent, secure and verifiable voting system. PB/OP systems are also less expensive to purchase, maintain and obtain technical support.
We have studied and followed the issue for over two years. We believe the choice of a new commissioner will be one of the most important decisions party leaders and legislators will make this year. We trust they will select a new commissioner who will ensure the integrity of every vote. The convenience of a touch screen system is not valid criteria for selecting a new voting system!
Joan F. Johnson, president Syracuse Metro League of Women Voters;
Lenore Rapalski, advocacy director, Syracuse Metro League of Women Voters;
Gerald Lotierzo, Alliance for Retired Americans;
Jan Markarian, CNY NOW
Linda DeStephano, Sierra Club.