Rochester Democrat and Chronicle


Hurry up on HAVA


Boards of Elections is stuck in limbo as Legislature stalls.


(May 29, 2005) Pity the election officials who will be responsible for getting new voting machines up and running before September 2006. New York's Legislature has moved so slowly to implement the federal Help America Vote Act, it's almost certain to be a mad scramble.


If the Senate and Assembly don't settle their differences and agree on a reform plan soon, next year's elections could well be a disaster.


After all, the state Board of Elections has said it will take at least 18 months to purchase and install 20,000 new machines across the state. That means the Senate and Assembly must formalize requirements for new voting equipment now. The Legislature can't afford to stay bogged down with political battles over basic HAVA mandates, such as devising a state policy for new voter verification and providing poll access for voters with disabilities.


Unfortunately, the main progress made in recent weeks was an informal agreement not to try to require uniform voting machines across the state. Instead, counties will be able to choose from a selection of state-approved machines. [emphasis added]


That was a mistake. It would have been much easier to train voters how to use new machines if everyone were working with the same system. But the decision is no surprise in light of New York politics. Trying to get all sides and special interests to agree on a single machine would have almost certainly pushed New York past the federal deadline. That could mean the loss of millions in HAVA aid.


Having given up on uniformity, the Senate and Assembly must at least formulate the machine requirements so machine manufacturers can start designing, and counties can begin the important selection process.


It's not as though they haven't had time. State leaders have known about the HAVA mandates since 2001. Every state except New York has moved forward.


The Senate and the Assembly have only days before the end of the 2005 legislative session. It's time to get voting reform done.


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