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Paper Ballots for NY!

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NY Rejects DREs 

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
-Mohandas Gandhi

I'm pleased to announce that after five years of hard work on the part of voting integrity advocates, New York State has rejected DREs and approved only the Automark and the Sequoia ImageCast scanner/marker for use in 2008 polling places. This momentous decision by the State Board of Elections virtually guarantees that New York State will vote on paper ballots and ballot scanners when it finally replaces lever machines in 2009.

Those of you who were with us at the beginning five years ago know what an enormous victory this is. When I first started traveling, presenting and advocating in New York, election officials, political parties, and machnne vendors assumed that New York State was going to be a DRE state. Precinct scanners were not under discussion, and only DREs were offered by vendors. Our experience over these five years reflects the truth of Gandhi's statement - indeed we were ignored, then laughed at, then fought bitterly by the voting machine vendors and their supporters in the election establishment. But finally, truth has prevailed, and what seemed like an impossible dream in 2003 has been made real by our hard work - New York State will be a paper ballot state.

Just yesterday, it seemed like high powered lobbyists had scuttled our hopes once again as they maneuvered to keep DREs in the mix even though they were in clear violation of New York's laws(see my post describing yesterday's events). But this morning, when the Board reconvened it was immediately obvious from the commissioners opening statements that those who were pushing for the DREs had conceded defeat. No small amount of thanks is due to Commissioner Doug Kellner (D), who firmly held the line yesterday and during a long night of backroom political maneuvering, vowing he would never approve the DRE submissions which did not fulfill the requirements of New York State election law regarding accessible voting machines.

While technically it is possible for a DRE vendor to submit and win approval for the 2009 lever machine replacement, this is highly unlikely as at least half of the HAVA funds will be spent on scanner compatible ballot markers. Since all the approved systems are components of a precinct based scanner system the least expensive path, and the only sensible one, is for counties to complete their HAVA implementation with paper ballots and scanners. We've learned to never be complacent, but this time we have reason to be confident that the scanner compatible choices of today will inevitably lead to paper ballots for all New York voters tomorrow.

My deepest thanks to everyone who fought this long, difficult battle. This is only Round One, and I promise you we will have much, much more to do to guarantee that our elections belong to the public, and are transparent and observable. But for today, let's break out the champagne, relax, and celebrate this great victory. What was once only a slogan representing what we fought for has now become a reality - Paper Ballots for New York!

Congratulations friends. Together we have changed the course of New York State election history, and 12 million registered voters in the Empire State will vote on paper ballots, not DREs.

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