New York State is in DEEP trouble…
But then so is the entire nation. On the January 9 broadcast of the nationally recognized Voice of the Voters radio program the truth hit the fan and it wasn’t pretty. replacing regular host Mary Ann Gould was guest host Bo Lipari, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting.
The program began with Mr. Lipari explaining that while New York State has voted with lever machines for nearly a century, it is ironically the last of the fifty states to comply with the Help America Vote Act requirement to convert to a new methodology.
He reminded listeners that New York’s controversy stems from it having accepted HAVA monies that were earmarked for helping make the transition from lever style voting machines to a replacement voting methodology. And there in lies the most provocative of the many rubs associated with the New York State voting fiasco. WHAT replaces the old lever machines, and when?
Those questions are presently being addressed in US District Court as a function of the Department of Justice petitioning the New York Court asking that the Court compel New York State to convert from the lever machines in 2008. To date, the New York State Elections Board has spun its wheels, all to the chagrin of one District Court Judge Sharpe. Judge Sharpe, a direct no nonsense kind of jurist has made and attempt to “focus the minds” of the NY State Elections Boards members by threatening jail time, said Bo Lipari. Lipari, who was in the court room during the exchange said that the judge stated, “noncompliance was not an option”. With the ground rules established, the Elections Board members have evidently received the message.
Based upon a Democratic work-up on how, when, and with what the lever machines are to be replaced, Judge Sharp said that, “replacement of lever machines by 2009 was reasonable”. And the Department of Justice conceded that ,“replacing all lever machines by the November 2008 election was not realistic”. But, the question still begs, replace them with what?
Before I take the reader down a very depressing journey on reality road, it is of interest to learn what one of New York States more active voting integrity soldiers had to say about the circumstance now existing in the Empire State.
Following Bo’s opening monologue, he introduced one such soldier to the program, Barbara Bartolleti, Legislative Director for the League of Women voters in New York State. Ms. Bartoletti was out of the gate like a thoroughbred when she stated, “the New York State legislature is dysfunctional”, and used that opening salvo to segue to the salient and unfortunate truth that, “The New York State Board of Elections gives dysfunction a bad name”. Clearly, Ms. Bartoletti is frustrated from her less than satisfying interactions with the elections bureaucrats.
“The election commissioners are party hacks” was her agonized statement. That bi-partisan board is comprised of two Democrats and two Republicans and the unfortunate end result of that equal division of polarized assets is “grid lock” said Bartoletti. With the Board of Elections the new math applies, “2+2=nothing” was Bartoletti’s refrain, and, since three of the four must agree prior to moving forward on any issue the constant “petty fights” lead to “constant gridlock”. Constant being the operational word defining a negative context. Well Barbara, after all, they ARE bureaucrats! Situation normal.
Ms Bartoletti’s sense of frustration was ever present when she said, “This circumstance has existed for years!”, and “The status quo is what works for them”.
Yup, sounds like an infestation of bureaucrats to me. Ever seen A Hitchikes guide to the Galaxy? In that movie bureaucrats have an appearance that reflects their mentality and their worth. But there is one person involved in the decision making process that Barbara Bartoletti seems to hold in high esteem, that being the aforementioned judge Sharpe. Her assessment of Sharpe is that he is “practical”, “no nonsense”, and “pragmatic”…well I should hope so! We’re in deep dark waters from which once submerged there is no return if he is not all of those qualities, because as Ms. Bartoletti pointed out, “his job is to enforce federal law”, and “New York State is not in compliance with the law” as it relates to HAVA. Her overall feeling is that while it is his intent to bring about compliance, “he also does not want to be responsible for implementing electronic voting chaos”.
Thus, the judgment part of his job will come into play when deciding the case between New York State and the Department of Justice. Bo Lipari pointed out that to this point, “The judge did not carte blanch accept the demand of the DOJ to replace lever machines”.
The many concerns associated with the replacement of lever machines with invisible vote technology continued to dominate the conversation when Bartoletti expressed fears that the Board of Elections will compromise and leave the state with a corrupted or all too easily corruptible system.
The League of Women Voters supports the notion of the most simple and transparent form of voting, the paper ballot. Paper is easy to understand, as are lever machines, but the new computer based technologies are less user friendly, especially to the older generations. She cited the very revealing reality that, “the average poll worker in New York State is 72 years of age“!! “Older workers may walk away from complex computer voter technologies” said Bartoletti, but “The commissioners just think touch screens are easier”.
I am forced to observe that whether this is compromise, convenient ignorance, or stupidity, the end result in an election year that promises a very high voter turn out could be an electronic Armageddon if DRE’s are the voting methodology. “We use DRE’s at our peril” lamented Bartoletti.
After Barbara Bartoletti, Bo took the conversation to the horses mouth when he welcomed Doug Kellner to the program. Mr. Kellner, Co-Chair on the New York State Board of Elections said that even though “the judge is holding the election boards feet to the fire” he also said that, “we’re committed to doing it right”. “Haste makes waste” was his following revelation, but, they are now making recommendations.