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New York vs. the Department of Justice Dilemma

By       Message Marge Acosta     Permalink
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In response to the travesty in Florida’s 2000 elections, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) with the intended goal of modernizing state voting systems and making them more accessible to voters with disabilities.

New York’s Legislature, true to its reputation as the most dysfunctional in the country, finally passed legislation to implement HAVA in 2005 (Election Reform Modernization Act), leaving the choice of systems to local boards of election (BOE) but giving the oversight to test and certify voting machines for use in NY to the State BOE.

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Left at the starting gate in the race for HAVA compliance, the NYS BOE had the opportunity to see the pitfalls in the track and to issue – with the input of many activists and experts -- some of the most stringent voting machine standards in the country in order to prevent NY from falling into the same traps that other states experienced.

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However, New York’s ongoing delays have provoked the ire of the federal government, resulting in a lawsuit to force New York’s compliance. New York responded with a rushed, fractured plan for partial compliance, but the Department of Justice is demanding full compliance by the 2008 fall elections.

Many NY newspapers are weighing in on the issue, some offering an oversimplified, nearsighted take -- replete with misperceptions -- on a complex situation.

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HAVA does allow for a separate accessible machine for disabled voters at each poll site, and one plan submitted by New York calls for a ballot marking device at each site that complies with all of HAVA and NY’s requirements. By selecting a ballot marker compatible with the economical Optical Scan voting system, it would be a permanent solution for accessibility.

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Marge Acosta is the Long Island Representative for New Yorkers for Verified Voting.

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