But not sufficient to produce trustworthy elections. Yes, we paper ballot advocates have been successful. This first major battle, hard fought over the past 4 years, is a win for the election integrity groups fighting against the direct recording electronic voting machines (DRE) in New York State.
The most recent, and hopefully the last, deadline for local election officials to report their choice for 2008 equipment purchases passed last week. All but one of the 62 New York State counties have selected ballot marking devices (BMD) compatible with paper ballots. And lawmakers in Hamilton County might still intercede to prevent their county from being the only DRE county in the state.
The BMDs will be deployed this year in partial compliance with the so-called Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The courts have dictated that New York must accomodate disabled voters at every polling place this year. Complete HAVA compliance is to be achieved in 2009 and the choices made this year indicate that paper ballots will be the final HAVA solution.
Protecting the integrity of the vote is our job...and the job is far from done. Our efforts must now turn to the many other devices, conditions and actors which stand in the way of true democratic and honest elections. The conversation has already started concerning such things as effective audits, secure chain of custody procedures, reform of election administration, and greater transparency for the entire process. As activists we surely will continue our advocacy for better elections and press for the needed changes.
One of the most effective actions we can take requires no new laws or large expenditures of cash. What is needed is a commitment to democracy and a willingness to contribute to community. Citizens must become involved in our elections to a much greater degree than we have. As individuals we can volunteer to serve as Election Inspectors and Poll Watchers or work at get out the vote programs. As members of community service organizations we can urge the organizations to support such efforts.