"The voting industry sells crap, and that is the problem." Douglas A. Kellner, Co-Chair New York State Board of Elections
I received a cache of documents surrounding NY's electoral system. Some of this material indicates justified resistance to computerized systems that fail to perform as intended, despite being certified. Some exposes deliberate info-suppression, preventing election officials from acting in the best interest of the public. One NY attorney extensively researched NY's election law history, showing the wisdom and security of prior law. A University of Virginia professor researched lever voting machines and provides a dire warning about new technology with its paper-based audit trail. This lengthy piece synthesizes the material for those interested in New York's battle to retain election integrity or to implement wholly condemned systems that have failed across the nation.
New York doesn't use computerized voting systems. For over a century, it has protected election integrity by using a mechanical lever voting system that can be reliably tested, combined with a brilliant legislative scheme that anticipates every opportunity for election fraud – from insiders and from voters; from before, during and after the election. Yet, New York may join the 49 other lemming states in electoral suicide, with its 2005 Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA), as amended.
NY Loves Its Levers
The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) does not require states to buy irredeemable computerized voting systems. Lever voting systems satisfy all but one of HAVA's requirements, as Douglas Kellner, Co-Chair of the New York State Board of Elections (SBOE) testified:
"[HAVA] sets minimum standards for voting machines. Our lever machines satisfy all but one of those standards, that there be at least one machine at each poll site that is 'accessible for individuals with disabilities....'"
Most NY officials have not been blinded by the glitz of high-tech wizardry. NY has kept its levers for the past six years, while elections across the nation crashed, glitched, and otherwise left the public even less confident in US elections. NY kept its levers when the nation switched to punchcard systems, which eventually brought us Florida's 2000 "election." Kellner decried these failed computerized systems at a June 19th SBOE meeting:
"The voting industry sells crap, and that is the problem....
"With the scanners I'm not going to get caught in this bargain with the devil. If the vendors do not have a product that today complies with the guidelines, I'm not prepared to use it.
"And I'm prepared to go back to Judge Sharpe and to say: 'Judge, it would be unconstitutional to enforce [HAVA] by requiring us to replace the lever voting machines with scanning equipment or DRE equipment or any equipment that does not comply with the current guidelines.'"
In naming Judge Sharpe, Kellner is referencing the 2006 Dept. of Justice lawsuit against the SBOE for failure to implement disabled-accessible voting devices and a statewide computerized voter database as required by HAVA.
Also resisting the effort to employ expensive gadgets that don't work is a mounting revolution on both sides of the aisle. Republican commissioner Gregory Peterson, newly appointed to the SBOE, expressed his bafflement at that June 19th meeting:
"[I]f it doesn't work the way you said it was going to work, we're better with a lever - just pushing down levers. And if the judge doesn't understand that then he's going to have to be made to understand that."
NY Experiences Software Failure
In accord with Judge Sharpe's order, NY must install disabled-accessible voting devices in the Fall 2008 election. Testing is underway, with three systems approved: Sequoia/Dominion Imagecast, ES&S Automark, and Premier (formerly Diebold) Automark.
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