Court to weigh voting lawsuit

Federal panel may decide how state complies with Help America Vote Act


By VALERIE BAUMAN, Associated Press

First published: Monday, November 26, 2007


ALBANY -- New York state has missed every deadline imposed by the federal government for the Help America Vote Act, and as February's presidential primary approaches, a federal court next month may determine how the state proceeds.


The U.S. Department of Justice sued the state in 2006 because it was the only state that still had not complied with HAVA -- a federal law enacted after the 2000 election that requires up-to-date, accessible voting machines.


The state has submitted two plans to the court for how and when it could meet the federal mandates of HAVA. Both sides will return to federal court Dec. 20. No matter what happens, the state won't be in compliance for the presidential primary.


One of the most pressing issues is providing accessible voting machines for the disabled. New York currently has at least one such machine in each county, but HAVA requires one at each polling place.


The other issue is that HAVA requires that all pull-lever voting machines be eliminated and new HAVA-certified machines be put in use by the Feb. 5 presidential primary. Pull-lever machines don't meet HAVA requirements because they aren't accessible to the disabled, they don't create a permanent paper record, or allow the voter to "audit" their vote for accuracy.


"We don't think we can meet that and that will be something the judge will have to decide," said Lee Daghlian, a spokesman for the state Board of Election.


New York state created more stringent requirements for voting machines than the federal government did and no machine has successfully met the standard or been certified.


The federal government argues that the state's strict rules are no excuse for noncompliance, but acknowledges in court documents that "as things stand today, it would appear infeasible to replace all lever voting machines in the state with all fully HAVA-compliant systems for use in the February 2008 primary."


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