Teresa Hommel



Committee on Governmental Operations, New York City Council

November 25, 2008



Thank you for the opportunity to comment on these three resolutions. I oppose all three because they introduce new, difficult-to-secure opportunities for fraud, as well as unnecessary complexity in the conduct of elections. I urge you to reject these three resolutions. Please do NOT recommend them for passage by the City Council.


Low voter participation in our nation will not be addressed by making voting more “convenient.” Many people have gone to jail or died in the struggle to obtain or exercise their right to vote. When something is valuable, people will act to secure it for themselves.


Democracy requires an engaged, informed citizenry. Our citizens are neither engaged in civic life nor well informed. Our elections are overly influenced by money, party-control of candidates, gerrymandering, and a corrupt media that is controlled by a small number of owners. Efforts to get citizens to vote by making it “more convenient” rather than by seeking ways to inform and engage citizens, only cheapens our democracy even further.


Res. 1251 advocates electronic registration


1.      Wrong-doers could go online and register real or non-existing people.


2.      There would be no original signature on the electronic transmission to safeguard existing registrations from false changes by others


3.      There would be no original signature on file to be used to verify the voter's identity on election day.


In Washington state, for example, part of the process consists of entering your driver's license number or a Washington “state ID number,” and then authorizing the state to use your signature on your license or ID for your voter registration. This means that a wrong-doer could go online and enter someone's driver's license number, and change their address or party affiliation. It also means that if a wrong-doer comes into possession of someone's drivers license and learns to sign their signature, the wrong-doer can vote as that person.

4.      In NY State voters prove their identity on election day in the poll site by signing the printed poll book under their printed signature that was obtained from their paper registration form. (I believe the terminology is "NY is an affidavit state" because by signing the poll book the voter legally affirms that he/she is that person.) If the signature is to be eliminated, are we to become an ID state where every voter needs a photo ID to prove their identity? This would tend to disenfranchise poor, elderly, and city voters who do not have a driver's license or other photo ID.


Res 1252 advocates same-day registration.


1.      Same-day registration opens the door to the use of electronic poll books which are networked to the state voter registration list, to ensure that the same person does not go to multiple poll sites, and register and vote multiple times. This introduces vast possibilities for errors and fraud.


a.       Such a network would create new opportunities for hackers or many local insiders to add false new registrations and thereby enable persons to vote multiple times by using multiple identities, or to change or delete existing registrations and thereby disenfranchise many voters.


b.      Electronic poll books would require additional poll workers who are computer literate to handle registrations, or else the lines of registered voters would be greatly slowed down each time a new registrant was served


2.      At this time of budget deficits and cutbacks of essential services, if there is extra money in the budget it should be spent on essential services, not the cost of extra poll workers to enable persons to vote on the spur of the moment on election day, or electronic poll books.


3.      Our county boards of elections should be encouraged to place registration tables in heavy-traffic locations on special registration days, rather than in low-traffic locations. This would not create additional costs and would give people a chance to register in advance of election day.


4.      Most of the places with same-day registration are smaller, less-populated states. The feasibility of same-day registration there does not mean it would be feasible in NY.


5.      Same-day registration introduces the opportunity for members of one party to change their registration on election day in order to vote in primaries of another party.


6.      Civic participation should be encouraged at all times, not just on one day (election day). We offer high school graduates voter registration forms, and register voters at the Department of Motor Vehicles and other public agencies.

Res. 1698 advocates early voting and no-excuse absentee voting


The draft resolution says that these practices relieve election administrators of some burdens, but I don't believe that this is true. The main effect is to complicate election administration, and create many batches of ballots and tallies which need to be separately managed if security it to be maintained.


Right now we still have our mechanical lever machines, for which record-keeping is simple to manage. Once we convert to the more-difficult-to-manage electronic machines, meaning optical scanners, we would need separate envelops for each day's ballots, along with the tally printouts for each day's voting. The state requirement of auditing 3% of the machines will become more complex, while at the same time the possibilities for fraud become greater.


Disadvantages of early voting


1.      In some races the candidates are not finally known until resolution of litigation which occurs as late as the day before the election.


2.      There would be increased cost of poll workers, staff, and voting locations for additional days.


3.      There would be difficulty securing the voting materials over several days or weeks in a public location.


4.      There would be difficulty for candidates to provide poll site observers for several days or weeks in the last days of their campaigns, when all their volunteers are campaigning.


5.      In other jurisdictions early voting seems to work as follows:


a.       The jurisdiction acquires electronic voting equipment and later discovers that it costs more to maintain and use than the budget allows, and that voters require more time than estimated so that there are long lines of voters waiting.


b.      The jurisdiction establishes early voting to reduce the number of voters who need to use the equipment on election day. But this means that different new procedures, differently-trained poll workers, and different new equipment is needed, because early voters can go to a limited number of early voting sites in their county and get the correct ballot for wherever they live in the county.


c.      The security of equipment and election materials is poor to non-existent during early voting.

d.      Insiders can use early voting tallies to determine how many votes need to be switched or blanked out to enhance the final tallies for their candidates.


e.      in some jurisdictions that use touchscreen "DRE" electronic voting systems instead of paper ballots and optical scanners, early voters do not have a secret ballot, because to ensure that voters don't vote multiple times their ballot is electronically tagged with their identity.


Disadvantages of no-excuse absentee voting


The greatest resources for security, observation, and use of proper protocols for securing the vote and preventing fraud occurs on election day, and that is when people should vote.


1. coercion and vote-selling are facilitated by absentee voting.


2. There are many opportunities for absentee ballots to "get lost" or be replaced or altered on their way to the Board of Elections.




In conclusion, I urge you to evaluate all aspects of election administration by using the criteria of simplicity, understandability, ability of observers to witness and evaluate the honesty of all procedures, and lowest possible use of technology.


Thank you for the opportunity to list these problems. Please do NOT recommend these resolutions for passage by the City Council.


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