Staten Island Advance


$220M for voting machines seen as imperiled


Mayoral panel says state could lose funding for new devices because of dawdling in Albany


Friday, March 11, 2005



New York state could lose $220 million in federal funding for new voting machines because of dawdling in Albany, a special mayoral panel warned yesterday.


Richmond County Clerk Stephen Fiala and the other members of the Election Modernization Task Force, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said the money could be lost unless lawmakers act quickly to approve new voting machine legislation.


New York state is eligible for nearly $220 million in federal aid under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which Congress approved in 2002 to help avoid election fiascos like those in Florida in 2000.


But to qualify, states must replace antiquated voting machines with new ones before September 2006. New York state lawmakers have failed to approve enabling legislation to allow purchase of new equipment because of partisan wrangling over the kinds of machines to be bought.


New York is the only state that has not passed the legislation.


City Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, the task force chairman, said it is imperative that the city buy new machines soon to give the Board of Elections time to prepare them for the 2006 elections and to train employees in their use.


And if the state waits much longer, the city could face a 2006 election season "more chaotic than the Florida election in the year 2000," Cardozo said.


"The Legislature must act and must act immediately," said Cardozo, during a City Hall news conference.


Fiala agreed.


"If they don't act now, we're out of compliance [in 2006]," Fiala said. "That's the bottom line. We will be in violation of federal law."


After an Election Day plagued by broken voting machines, confusing instructions and other problems, Bloomberg announced plans to form a panel to recommend ways to improve operations, productivity and overall efficiency at the Board of Elections, and to modernize the voting process.


Yesterday, the mayor issued a statement supporting the task force's call for quick legislative action.


"Further delay by the state will make it extremely difficult for the Board of Elections to prepare for the 2006 election, when the new machines will need to be introduced," Bloomberg said. "I therefore join the task force in strongly urging the Legislature to quickly pass, and the governor to sign, this long-overdue legislation."


Michael Scholl covers City Hall for the Advance. He may be reached at


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