By JAMES M. ODATO, Capitol bureau
Friday, November 9, 2007
ALBANY -- The state Board of Elections, Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and their counterparts in 49 states have been sued by 150 voters seeking to bar the states purchasing new voting machines that would honor the Help America Vote Act.
The suit -- from people such as Queensbury's Bob Schulz, who has frequently sued governmental entities -- seeks to block the states from using machines and computers to cast and count votes and instead calls for the use of hand-marked, hand-tallied paper ballots in the primaries, caucuses and general election of 2008 and beyond.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Albany, was served on Spitzer, Cuomo and the officials of the state Board of Elections on Wednesday.
The plaintiffs want to permanently prevent the states from using machines and computerized voting systems, and require the counting of votes at every level to be conducted under public observation.
The suit comes as New York is struggling to comply with HAVA almost two years after the federal deadline to replace the traditional lever machines used statewide. Several groups, including those representing disabled people, call for paper ballots, although some want the county elections commissioners to also purchase machines that can scan the paper ballots.
However, many counties like the computerized machines that have been purchased elsewhere in the country to honor HAVA, which was aimed at enhancing ballot access.
Schulz said his group demands hand-marked paper ballots held in public view at each local polling place until they are hand-counted. Such a system would not allow for rigging of elections, he said.
Lee Daghlian, a spokesman for the elections board, said the lawsuit is under review.
Lawyer Andrea Novick, a coordinator with the Election Defense Alliance, said she thinks the suit is wrongly filed in federal court and should have been filed in state court. Her group supports paper ballots but did not join in the lawsuit.
All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2007, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.