Resolution 228-A, New York City Council


Resolution 228-A had bipartisan sponsorship and passed unanimously on August 16, 2006

With Resolution 228-A, the New York City Council has set a standard that our entire nation can aspire to: Resolution 228-A says that elections belong to the people.

It says we want to see complete public tests to make sure the new equipment works BEFORE we hand over potentially hundreds of millions of dollars.

It clearly sets forth the kinds of tests that are appropriate and essential at the city level:

-- Complete Mock Elections, because they are the only way to ensure that an entire voting system works AND that our elections staff and poll workers and voters can make it work. Fancy computer equipment won't benefit our city if ordinary people can't understand it, or work with it. Here's what can happen during real elections, when the Board of Elections has not run mock elections to check out the equipment:
Watchdog Group Questions 2004 Fla. Vote

-- Hacking tests, both by professionals and individual public-spirited computer experts, because they are the only way to ensure that computerized voting systems are not easily broken into. For example:
Liberty Voting Machines Hacked

Resolution 228-A also calls for public consideration of costs. Our city has closed firehouses and hospitals, reduced the hours that our libraries are open, just to save a few million dollars. But we might spend hundreds of millions of dollars for equipment that no one has seen work yet, and our Board of Elections hasn't even published a cost analysis of our different options.

Finally, the resolution calls for some way to determine whether the equipment we receive is what we ordered. Around our country, jurisdictions have been mighty surprised AFTER their equipment has failed in an election, to examine it and find out it is illegal -- not federally or state certified. And it's not what they thought they purchased! The resolution says we want to be able to examine the equipment when it's delivered, and make sure it's what we ordered. Not just the outside of the computer -- the insides -- the software, firmware, and whatever else is in there.

If our Board of Elections pays attention to this resolution, it will help us prevent future problems.

Resolution 228-A is a result of magnificent work by
-- Council Member Robert Jackson, Lead Sponsor
-- Council Member Simcha Felder, Chairman of the Governmental Operations Committee
-- and the entire City Council.

More Facts

Great photographs of the Press Conference!

Resolution 228-A passed by unanimous vote of the City Council on August 16, 2006, with bipartisan sponsorship. Prior to August 16, the resolution had 43 sponsors out of 51 council members. This high number of sponsors is historic and almost unprecedented. On August 16, most of the remaining council members signed on as sponsors prior to the vote.

More than a dozen good government groups supported Resolution 228-A. Most of them rallied at the enthusiastic press conference on the steps of City Hall on August 16: American Association of Jews from the Former USSR, New York Chapter; Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY); Common Cause/New York; Disabilities Network of New York City; Election Integrity Task Force of Community Church of NY; Joint Public Affairs Committee for Older Adults (JPAC); League of Women Voters of New York State; NAACP Staten Island Branch; New York Public Interest Research Group, Inc. NYPIRG; New York Statewide Senior Action Council; New Yorkers for Verified Voting; People For the American Way; Professional Staff Congress (PSC-CUNY); and The New York Immigration Coalition.

Resolution 228-A is a shorter version of the original resolution, Resolution 228, which was trimmed down in the week before passage, losing some of the explanations, but retaining most significant content.

43 sponsors of Reso 228 prior to August 16 -- Thank these sponsors!!! Addabbo, Arroyo, Avella, Barron, Brewer, Clarke, Comrie, de Blasio, Dickens, Felder, Fidler, Foster, Garodnick, Gennaro, Gentile, Gerson, Gioia, Gonzalez, Jackson, James, Katz, Koppell, Lappin, Liu, Mark-Viverito, Martinez, McMahon, Mealy, Mendez, Monserrate, Nelson, Oddo, Palma, Recchia, Reyna, Sanders, Seabrook, Stewart, Vacca, Vallone, Vann, Weprin, Yassky

A special note of thanks is due to Lead Sponsor Robert Jackson who, together with his excellent staff, worked to get sponsors signed up and shepherd this resolution through the City Council process. Another special note of thanks is due to Simcha Felder, Chairman of the Governmental Operations Committee, who went to bat for this resolution to pass it out of his committee and get it on the calendar for a vote by the entire City Council.

Remarks by Teresa Hommel at the Press Conference

Materials in the press kit included:
Council Member and Lead Sponsor Robert Jackson's Press Release
Quotes by Supporting Organizations
What Is A Public Mock Election
What Is A Hacking Test
Resolution 228-A

Audio News Report (available for 90 days after 8/16/06)
WBAI Evening News, Wednesday, August 16, 2006 6:00 pm

Political Lessons

1. Council members who sign up as sponsors early in the process make it easier to get additional sponsors.

2. By comparing the original resolution 228 to revised version 228-A you can see what was trimmed.

3. The organizations who provided supporting quotes and committed to attending the press conference represent hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Most of these organizations, and some others, had previously sent letters to the City Council urging a vote on this resolution. Without their endorsement, the resolution may not have come to a vote, regardless of the number of sponsors. Activists must come together to work on voting machine technology issues, because leaving this work to be done by only a relatively few technologists will not be effective.

4. The resolution is a tool for further activism by large numbers of citizens who can now request that its recommentations be implemented. Without more activism, the resolution alone will probably be ignored.

5. The resolution urges testing and other measures to be taken. A resolution is not law and does not obligate the Board of Elections to comply. Nevertheless, there was strong opposition to the resolution from the Board of Elections and other interests who were never clearly identified. (Council Members would say, "We heard that..." and repeat arguments against the resolution without saying where the arguments originated.) The conflict was noted by The Crain's Insider.

Opposition arguements were (1) the resolution is not necessary; (2) it will not obligate the Board of Elections so it is useless; and (3) as Citizens Union stated in their testimony before the Governmental Operations Committee in April, 2006:

"[W]e believe the technicalities of this legislation are outside the scope of jurisdiction of this governmental body. The specificities provided in this legislation are advocated irregardless to the capabilities and resources of the City Board. The City Council should not legislate the work and decisions of the City Board of Elections. It is these circumstances when one branch of government inappropriately overreaches to influence the decision of another separate governmental entity, when government is no longer good."

Why are these arguments wrong?

(a) As elected officials, City Council Members are representatives of the people. It is their job and responsibility to express the concerns and the will of the people. The Board of Elections is a politically appointed body with no obligation to meet with or listen to the people.

(b) Although resolutions are "legislation" in a broad sense, they are not law, and no resolution is outside the jurisdiction of the City Council. The City Council passes resolutions on national and state issues on subjects where the Council is "pre-empted" by national or state law. In New York State, state election law pre-empts local law, which means that if the City Council would pass a law rather than a resolution, it would be struck down by the courts.

(c) Computerized voting systems offer nearly infinite opportunities for undetectable errors and tampering. The Board of Elections, although eager to get computerized voting, has not yet shown realistic plans for managing the technology in a secure or responsible way:

(i) No public hearings to date.
(ii) No cost analysis of the different options available.
(iii) No plan, or even a feasible method, to confirm that the equipment delivered is the same as what was state-certified or purchased.
(iv) No plan, or even a feasible method, to enable candidates and parties to confirm that the equipment to be used is correctly configured and contains only legal components.
(v) No plan to run mock elections to test the entire system prior to use in real elections.
(vi) No commitment to allow hacking tests to ensure that the equipment does not offer easy ways to tamper with votes and tallies.

(d) If the resolution calls for measures that are in fact beyond the "capabilities and resources of the City Board" then the City Council performed an essential public service by clearly and explicitly listing the measures that are reasonable and necessary to ensure safe and proper use of computerized voting systems.

Note that Citizens Union did not suggest that the City Board select equipment that is manageable (within their capabilities and resources). They argued that we should not take measures to find out whether the equipment is manageable!

6. New York City Implications -- Does the New York City Board of Elections really lack the capability and resources to implement the measures in Resolution 228-A? If so, this resolution should help wake them up to what is needed to safely and properly implement electronic voting. If electronic equipment will not be manageable, then we should comply with federal HAVA and NY state requirements with simpler technology.

7. New York State Implications -- New York City has set a standard that other counties can follow.

8. National implications -- New York City is the first major city in which the legislature has set forth concerns and meaningful, useful measures for protecting our future election integrity -- BEFORE disasters with electronic equipment occur. All of the recommendations in the resolution have been suggested before, but few if any jurisdictions have followed them. Hopefully other cities will follow New York City's leadership.