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Action Alert! Will you allow Microsoft to Dictate Terms to the NY State Legislature?

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Microsoft Muscles the NYS Legislature

Software giant moves to weaken NY Election law

The 800 pound gorilla of software development has moved forcefully into New York State, supported by voting machine vendors using Microsoft Windows in their touch screen voting machines and other systems. Over the last two months Microsoft and a cadre of high paid lobbyists have been working a full-court press in Albany in an attempt to bring about a serious weakening of New York State election law. This back door effort by private corporations to weaken public protections is about to bear fruit.

On Thursday, June 14, I received a copy of proposed changes to New York State Election Law drafted by Microsoft attorneys that has been circulating among the Legislature. These changes would gut the source code escrow and review provisions provided in our current law, which were fought for and won by election integrity activists around the state and adopted by the Legislature in June 2005. In an earlier blog I wrote about Microsoft's unwillingness to comply with New York State's escrow and review requirements. Now the software giant has gone a step further, not just saying “we won't comply with your law” but actively trying to change state law to serve their corporate interests. Microsoft's attorneys drafted an amendment which would add a paragraph to Section 1-104 of NYS Election Law defining “election-dedicated voting system technology”. Microsoft’s proposed change to state law would effectively render our current requirements for escrow and the ability for independent review of source code in the event of disputes completely meaningless - and with it the protections the public fought so hard for.

Adding insult to injury, these changes are being slipped into a bill that may be voted on Monday or Tuesday, June 18 or 19. That bill's stated purpose is to make “technical changes” to the recent law moving the date of New York's presidential primary to February. Because this bill involving the new primary date must be passed next week before the Legislative session ends (New York has jumped on the bandwagon to be part of the super presidential primary in February 2008) this grave weakening of the public’s right to review software would come along part and parcel with the primary date change. The players promoting this behind the scenes are relying on the fact that this reprehensible eradication of citizen protections won't be noticed until it's too late. If Microsoft and the vendor lobbyists had their way, the public would have known nothing about this until after the law passed. Well that much at least, didn't work. We’ve found out about this secretive move, albeit only four days before the bill containing this poisonous provision is to be voted on. The question now is will the Legislature approve this appalling weakening of our law?

Up to now, New York State has been rightfully proud to have adopted some of the strictest regulations regarding the new electronic voting systems in the entire nation. The Legislature has been patting themselves on the back for two years now for passing such an excellent set of laws. For the most part, they had a right to be proud. But now these powerful private companies are working the Legislature behind the scenes trying to quietly change New York Election Law to remove the public’s protections and to serve their private interests.

The big question is, will the New York State Legislature give in to these powerful corporate interests or will they stand up for transparency, security, and the public's right to know?

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Take Action Now - It’s urgent that you call your State Senator and Assembly representatives on Monday, June 18, at their Albany offices, and tell them they must not weaken New York State’s escrow and review requirements. Remind them that the Legislature passed a strong law 2 years ago - they must not give in to pressure by voting machine vendors to undermine those protections.

Find your Assembly member’s contact information here:
http://www.assembly.state.ny.us/mem/
(Not sure who your Assembly member is? Click here to search by Zip Code)

Find your State Senator’s contact information here:
http://www.senate.state.ny.us/senatehomepage.nsf/senators?OpenForm
(Not sure who your State Senator is? Click here to search by Zip Code)
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www.nyvv.org

Bo Lipari is the executive director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting.

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