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Civic Groups Blast Department of Justice Proposal to Gut Standards

By       Message Allegra Dengler     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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From Teresa Hommel

YESTERDAY: Dept of Justice tells Federal Court to take control of NY State elections.

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WHAT: The US Dept of Justice filed papers yesterday with the Federal Court asking that the Court take over our State Board of Elections for the purpose of forcing compliance with federal law by buying new voting machines for us.

WHY BAD: NY has higher standards than federal law. NY is the first state to honestly test the new machines to find out if they meet federal "voluntary" standards -- none of them passed the tests. Now DOJ is asking the Court to buy these failed machines anyway for our use in 2008.
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Civic Groups Blast Department of Justice Proposal to Gut Standards for New Voting Systems

A coalition of civic groups harshly criticized a proposal made by the Department of Justice today that calls for the federal courts to consider taking control from the state and to select new voting systems for New York for the September, 2008 primary elections. The groups said DOJ's position endangered numerous safeguards for new voting systems that were won in state law, such as mandating that the computer code from voting systems be held in escrow in case of suspected problems with machines.

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Read the full press release here:

Download a printable version here:

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TONIGHT, 8 PM, Voice of the Voters Radio/Internet Program--
Bo Lipari, Executive Director, New Yorkers for Verified Voting, and
Andi Novick, attorney; founder of Northeast Citizens for Responsible Media
John Bonifaz, election attorney

Federal Take-Over of New York State Elections?

Dept. of Justice versus New York State
Voters Rights to Secure Elections
What's happening...Why ...What's at stake...What's next
Will Voting Machine Vendors win and Citizens lose?
Impact on the Country and Election 2008?

"Voice of the Voters!"
Wednesday, November 7, 8pm Eastern Time
1360 AM Greater Philadelphia Area
and on the Internet: or

Voice of the Voters now also available as a podcast at under "Voice of the Voters" in the News & Politics category. Archived shows are available at

Bo Lipari, Executive Director, New Yorkers for Verified Voting
Andi Novick, attorney; founder of Northeast Citizens for Responsible Media
John Bonifaz, election attorney

The DOJ now suggests that the Federal Court should appoint an official to achieve HAVA compliance, taking it out of the state's hands:
"In the absence of evidence of the demonstrated ability and willingness of the State Board of Eleections itself to make immediate progress toward these goals as reflected in new and/or existing Court mandates, the Court may have to consider taking compliance out of the hands of the State and placing it in the hands of the Court or others appointed by the Court to achieve compliance with federal law."

From Bo Lipari:
"The DOJ has issued a long-awaited opinion in the US District Court case against New York State. NY has maintained (among other things) that no existing system complies with New York State regulations thus far, and until such time as we complete the rigorous certification process called for by NY law, we cannot in good conscience put new voting systems in place. The DOJ is arguing that not only must NY replace all lever machines by September 2008, but Federal law is the controlling law, and the state has no right to impose higher standards than called for at the federal level."

This is a scary assumption -- a state has no right to put higher voting machine standards in place than Congress has called for....this sounds to me like good news for voting machine vendors, and bad news for citizens."

From Andi Novick:
"To those of you who care about the people's right to honest elections I am sharing my initial response to the latest effort of the DOJ to force NY to vote on theft-enabling machines. Tomorrow at noon is the regularly scheduled State Board of Elections meeting -- anyone who can get to Albany tomorrow for this should be there because the pressure on the SBOE to cave in to the federal government's demand that NY buy any non-certified, failed, non-functional, corrupt, piece of junk voting machines in time for the 2008 election was just turned up to high. ...

I am fed up with pretending that the DOJ isn't the political tool that it is seeking to impose any number of the 14 characteristics of fascism, in this case the 14th on the list--see I am not willing to act as if the DOJ should be given legitimacy when we all see the evidence--the attorney general firings, voter ID laws, replacement of anyone in the department who would actually protect the rights of voters and of course Mr. Tanner's recent admissions, if anyone needed more proof. Therefore the DOJ--which is insisting in this Memo of Law that NY purchase the very machines which have been shown to be hackable in minutes and which cannot and will not produce accurate, reliable election results and ensure that we'll never know what the results are because all the counting will be done in secret--is the enemy of us all and perhaps we can find some common ground.

In essence what the DOJ memo says can be summarized as follows--the part in parentheses being my reading between the lines and the rest is really what the DOJ says:

We (that would be Mr. Tanner and friends) don't really care that you in NY are having a problem because Microsoft won't give you its source code (cause we don't have a problem with secret vote counting); nor do we care that you have stricter laws than HAVA and therefore there are no computers that comply with your stricter NY Laws (nor any computers that comply with the VVSG 2005 guidelines altho Mr. Tanner and friends conveniently doesn't mention the federal guidelines and that little problem). It's just great that you have stricter laws, but it's really not our (the corrupt tool of the criminal administration's plan to remove people from the voting process's) problem. You still have to buy the computers being sold by the (highly corrupt) private vendors because we the DOJ say that's good enough to satisfy HAVA (because how else are we going to be able to control New York's electorate unless you cooperate NY)."

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Feds demand voting overhaul
Agency says state violating mandate to update machines

By JAMES M. ODATO, Capitol bureau
First published: Wednesday, November 7, 2007

ALBANY -- In a sharply worded motion in U.S. District Court, the Department of Justice this week showed frustration with New York's failure to meet two years of deadlines for replacing lever voting machines and demanded installation of new devices regardless of whether they meet state standards.

The briefs, submitted late Monday, responded to the fractured state Board of Elections' vision to phase in new machines over the next few years. On Oct. 2, Republicans and Democrats on the board submitted separate plans, failing to meet the court's order for a blueprint on how the state will comply with the Help America Vote Act.

HAVA required states to update their systems by January 2006. DOJ notes that "with the glaring exception of New York," every other state has met HAVA's deadline. New York's failure is largely because election commissioners have been unable to find any machines that meet the state's relatively high standards.

While the state is free to impose requirements for voting systems, it can't ignore federal rules, U.S. Attorney Glenn T. Suddaby's office wrote to the court.

"The state cannot continue to operate federal elections utilizing voting systems that do not meet federal law requirements," Suddaby's motion says. "To view this scenario otherwise would allow a state to ignore with impunity HAVA's minimal federal voting systems requirements for however long it pleases, as long as it claims to be progressing toward a voting system."

The state's plan calls for a system that has stricter security and broader accessibility than the current machines. Congress has supplied almost $220 million to the state to pay for the conversion.

Lee Daghlian, a spokesman for the Board of Elections, said he cannot discuss the suit. A board meeting is scheduled for today.

Bo Lipari, executive director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting, which supports accessible voting, said the DOJ motion suggests the federal government wants the state to buy machines even if they aren't what lawmakers want.

The position, he said, is "mind-boggling ... that while New York state has a right to require far higher voting system standards than those set by the federal government, we have no right to demand that voting machine vendors actually meet them."

If the motion is sustained, he said, it would be a "giveaway to the voting machine vendors."

The DOJ is suing the state Board of Elections. DOJ is now trying to get it to replace voting machines by September 2008. James M. Odato can be reached at 454-5083 or by e-mail at

All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2007, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.

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Feds Ask Court to Order New Voting Machines for New York by 2008
Karen DeWitt

ALBANY, NEW YORK (2007-11-06) The federal Justice Department has filed papers with a US District Court judge, trying to force New York State to switch over to modern voting machines by the 2008 Presidential elections. Voting rights advocates say that to make the change in a high turn out year could create chaos.

New York State still uses the old- style mechanical levered machines, even though a law passed after the 2000 elections said states had to upgrade their voting systems. Neil Rosenstein, with the New York Public Interest Research Group, says that's because state lawmakers and their representatives on the State Board of Elections couldn't decide on which voting machines to buy in time for the January 2006 federal deadline.

Rosenstein says in this one instance, the gridlock that has plagued Albany for years may have actually helped voters. He says New York has avoided the problems other states have had, when they rushed to purchase expensive new computerized machines that often did not work the way they were supposed to.

"In this case it could be that the state's dysfunction has actually had a good purpose," Rosenstein said.

Now, though, those delays may finally be coming to an end. The U.S. Justice Department is attempting to force New York to comply with the federal voting reform act in time for the 2008 Presidential elections next year. On Tuesday, Election Day, Justice Department lawyers filed new papers with a federal judge, in an ongoing lawsuit, saying the State Board of Elections has demonstrated an "abject inability" to comply with the federal law, and that the court should step in to order that the new machines be purchased in time for next November's contests.

Barbara Bartoletti, with the League of Women Voters, says switching systems in what is predicted to be one of the highest voter turn out years, would be a disaster.

"This would be monumental mistake," Bartoletti said. She said other states, including Florida, California and Ohio, have seen their elections go awry in recent years because of hastily purchased faulty equipment.

The state board of elections has been belatedly working toward the purchase of new machines, with a plan to try them out in two years. Their reasoning is that 2009 will be another light turn out election, with just a handful of local races outside New York City to be decided. They believe it would be easier to practice with a new system when fewer voters are participating.

The State Board had also required that any machines that are purchased have the capacity to create a paper trail, in case any computerized systems malfunction. Bartoletti, with the League of Women Voters, says after years of delay, the Board is finally on track, and is setting up strict testing standards before they give counties the go-ahead to purchase any new machines.

But the Justice Department, in it's papers, says those rules should be scrapped in favor of getting a new system, any kind of system, in place by 2008. It says the new regulations will further delay a process that is already nearly two years past the mandated deadline.

The legal briefs also charge that New York's current, outdated system also discriminates against disabled people. Although the state has mandated an accessible voting machine in each county, the Justice Department says that's not enough to ensure access.

To back up their argument DOJ quotes from a 2005 report from then Attorney General, now Governor Eliot Spitzer, who said no further delays should be tolerated.

A spokesman for the State Board of Elections, Lee Daghlian, says he can't comment on the Justice Department's accusations until the Election Commissioners have had a chance to examine the legal papers. He said they would be too busy to do so on Election Day, but the State Board of Elections does plan a meeting for Wednesday.

The judge in the case could rule as soon as next month.

© Copyright 2007, WXXI

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Memo in Support of US' Motion to Enforce the June 2, 2006 Remedial Order

Notice of Motion to Enforce

Heffernan Declaration

Allegra Dengler
60 Judson Avenue
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522

"... touch-screen machines are highly vulnerable to being hacked or maliciously programmed to change votes. And they cost far more than voting machines should." New York Times editorial, March 9, 2005


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Allegra Dengler is a voting activist in New York State.

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