Editorial: Time to act on voting machines


Nov 29, 2007



Itís inexcusable that state leaders have consistently failed to meet deadlines to implement the 2002 Help America Vote Act.


State officials have had enough time to comply. Itís time now for Gov. Eliot Spitzer, as this stateís chief executive, to charge the state Board of Elections with getting the job done.


Failing that, the governor and the Legislature should find a way to work around a panel that seems intent on flouting court orders and undermining the democratic process, which could include replacing some election commissioners at their discretion.


New York is the only state that still has not complied with HAVA, the federal law enacted to modernize the way we vote following the debacle in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. The state has missed deadline after deadline, causing the U.S. Justice Department to file a suit last March to force compliance. A judge might ultimately decide the issue.


The sticking point is which type of machines to buy. There are basically two types ó optical scanners, a computerized reader that is fed paper ballots marked by voters, or electronic touch-screen computers, similar to ATM machines. The state Legislature sat on the issue for 2Ĺ years, and eventually punted the decision to the counties.


The problem is that the machines need to be certified first by the state Board of Elections. Thatís where the process is hung up, and counties are rightfully reluctant to choose which machines to buy until the certification process is complete. The state has submitted two different plans to the court for how and when it could meet the HAVA mandates, and both sides will return to federal court Dec. 20, when a judge may decide the issue.


On Wednesday, the Oneida County Board of Legislators approved a petition encouraging the state to implement the HAVA requirements. And last week, the Madison County Board of Supervisors called on the state Board of Elections to get on with it.


Russell Cary, chairman of the supervisorsí administration and oversight committee, said members feel a federal decision on which machines to buy might be done in haste, and prefers the state handle it. A resolution also asked Spitzer to appoint new commissioners to the state board if this board canít get the job done by early next month.


Thatís a fair request. If we canít have officials who handle with reverence and care the basic foundation of a participatory democracy, then we should get a new set who managed to sit through Civics 101 in high school and has a clue about why this is important.


As Cary said, ďSomething has to be done. (Voting) is the foundation of our democracy. Something this important shouldnít be handled this way.Ē


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