By Cara Matthews
Star-Gazette Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- New York elections officials announced Tuesday the deadline for certifying new voting machines has been pushed back to May 7, threatening the state's ability to have the equipment in place for this year's elections.
Part of the reason for changing the date -- which previously was March 29 -- is because of a dispute with a state contractor. That dispute has put the testing of new equipment on hold. Ciber Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., has a contract with New York that pays up to $4 million to test how secure voting machines are and other areas.
The feasibility of having new machines in place for this year's elections was already in question before testing was put on hold, said Bo Lipari, executive director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting.
All states were to have modernized election systems in place by the 2006 elections to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act that Congress enacted after the voting problems in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. But, after being sued by the federal government, New York's deadline was delayed until the fall of this year.
"The Ciber problem now just adds to that," Lipari said.
The state Board of Elections stopped testing being performed by Ciber early this month after learning the company had not been accredited by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and there were potential problems with its performance. Elections officials said they needed specifics about why Ciber had not met the criteria to determine whether New York should take any action.
As of Tuesday, neither Ciber nor the EAC had supplied the documents being sought. That prompted state Election Commissioner Douglas Kellner to propose issuing a subpoena for Ciber. Commissioner Evelyn Acquila voted with him, but Commissioner Helena Donohue voted no, so the subpoena did not move forward. Donohue said she would like to give the company a few more weeks to comply.
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