Jacobs and Legislature move to intervene in Federal lawsuit to avoid electoral chaos next year

 State’s inaction could lead to County’s loss of millions of dollars of federal aid in Voting Act funds

The Nassau County Legislature and the County’s Board of Elections today moved to intervene in a lawsuit that the United States has brought against the State of New York to enforce compliance with the Help America Vote Act (“HAVA”). At jeopardy is about $50M in HAVA funding for county boards of election throughout New York State, including about $15M for Nassau County. 

HAVA requires the state to convert to HAVA-compliant voting machines by the September 2007 primary. The local boards of election are responsible for actually purchasing the new machines and putting them into use by that time. However, the State has made it impossible for the local boards to meet the deadline because it has failed to certify a list of approved voting machines and has stated that it will not do so until at least February 2007. 

“This clearly leaves our Board of Election insufficient time to select and deploy new voting machine systems by the September 2007 primary,” said Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury).

“Since everyone agrees that the existing time line under the Federal consent decree is no longer feasible, it is imperative that a new, realistic time line be created to ensure we protect the integrity of the voting process when we go to full HAVA implementation,” said Board of Elections Commissioner William Biamonte. 

“Nassau County has it right,” said Bo Lipari, executive director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting. “There is not enough time to replace voting machines this year without causing chaos at the polls. It’s time to face the music. New York State must do this right, not do it fast.”

“If the local boards are forced to adopt new voting machines without adequate time to prepare, the result could be electoral chaos,” said Legislator Lisanne Altmann (D-Great Neck), who encouraged the action to be taken. “Nassau County should not be penalized because of the State’s inaction.”

In addition, board of election officials and legislators believe that the State is depriving them of the right to select their preferred voting machines from the approved list, because the State has threatened to make the selection for any local board which has not chosen a system by March 7, 2007.

The County’s lawsuit is requesting that the local boards of election be given ample time to:

- Select and purchase an appropriate voting machine system;

- Procure adequate climate controlled and electrified storage facilities for the new machines;

- Design and implement new security systems to protecting against hacking/tampering;

- Program the new systems;

- Plan and implement a public education campaign to instruct voters in how to use the new machines;

- Make necessary modifications to polling places to make them compatible with the new machines;

- Complete necessary testing of each of the new machines;

- Recruit and train thousands of poll workers and inspectors.