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New Voting Systems
Counting Every Vote
and Making Every Vote Count
March 21, 2007


If you didn't make it to the March 21 meeting on this topic, you can read here summary of what has led up to the current situation on voting machines as provided by speakers Marion S. Sinek, at right above, HAVA advisor to Senator Hillary Clinton, and Laura Porter, Electronic voting technology specialist, LWV-Westchester:

1. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was passed by Congress in response to the problems with the 2000 election.  It established the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) requires replacement of punch card and lever machines; establishes minimum standards for administration of federal elections, etc.

2. N.Y. State passed the Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA) of 2005 to implement HAVA in NY.  It calls for replacing lever machines by the primary election of 2007 to comply with requirements to make voting machines accessible to handicapped voters and meet other HAVA standards.

3. ERMA, among other things, called for the Election Commissioners of each county to select the machine for that county from among voting machines certified by the State Board of Elections (SBOE).

4.  ERMA and the subsequently adopted standards expanding on the legislation, comprise the toughest standards of all US states, including a Voter Verified Paper Trail (VVPT); stringent audit requirements and requiring vendors to put into escrow the software codes of their machines.  NYS was the first to require compliance with the newly adopted  EAC standards for voting machines.

5. Certification of machines by the SBOE became problematic because vendors had trouble meeting the stringent standards set by NY law.  As of February 2007 only two or three machines appeared to be close to receiving certification.  These include the Liberty DRE, a Diebold Scanner and a Sequoia scanner.

6. Two types of machines are included in consideration: Precinct based Optical Scanners (PBOS) supplemented by ballot marking systems for handicapped accessibility and Direct Recording Electronic (DRE).  Many lobbying organizations, including the LWVNYS, favor the PBOS systems because it is a paper ballot based system, easy to recount and verify, is less prone to security flaws and is deemed to be cheaper and easier to store.

7. As part of HAVA  each state is entitled to federal monies to fund these improvements.  NY received about $220 million, of which $50 million was for machine replacement.  Since the original HAVA deadline of 2006 has not been met the Department of Justice and the EAC are moving to ask the state to refund the $50 million.  Efforts are under way to keep the funds because NY is making a strong effort to comply as soon as possible and there have been unusual factors involved.  The outcome of this process is not yet clear.

8. Timing has been a critical problem.  The original intent was to have machines certified by late 2006, ready for ordering and delivery by early 2007.  This turned out to be unrealistic.  Vendors did not submit their machines in time due to the difficulty in meeting the new standards and the company hired by NY for $3 million to do the technical testing, Ciber, Inc. , failed to receive authority from the EAC to certify voting machines and therefore NY suspended further testing by Ciber  in January 2007.  As a result the State Election Commissioners Association passed a resolution calling for implementation to be deferred to 2009.

9. A05170 was recently introduced by Assembly member Galef, with significant support, calling for implementation of paper only ballot technology in a uniform statewide system.  It is not clear whether Senate leadership will support a companion bill.

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Following is more info that has come since the 3/21/07 fact sheet at left:

Hava Group: there is stll much deliberation over the AIR report and how to interpret that data to determine the number of voting machines per registered voters to be purchased. As you can see from Bo's report, no conclusions yet but some of the proposed recommendations will be challenged by NYVV and LWVNYS. If you wish to review the AIR report of December 2006, and NYVV's response (LWVNYS concurred) please go to www.nyvv.org

Now that the NYS Budget would appear to be moving toward adoption, the legislature will be able to turn to other topics, like a SINGLE STATEWIDE PBOS VOTING MACHINE. The League will be renewing our efforts by mid-April and expanding our campaign to other organizations. If you have ideas on organizations we should be reaching out to, please let me know.

A quick report on the highlights from the SBOE commissioners meeting on Tuesday, March 27 held in Rockland County. You may forward.

Most of the discussion at the meeting was about the Machine Timing numbers. Commissioner Kellner asked if there was a formal proposal before the Board for approval, to which Co-Executive Director Peter Kosinski said there was not. He described three issues that were still unresolved:

a) The AIR report numbers for the Liberty DRE were higher than the other DREs.
b) The numbers for scanners from the Carr/Kosinski proposal were not extracted in the same way as the DREs were.
c) The number of required privacy booths remained undetermined.

To this, Commissioner Doug Kellner added another:

d) The AIR study had every ballot undervoted, so all scanner ballots were kicked back. This led to a long discussion that the New York State requirement for undervote notification should be changed! This is the first time to my knowledge the SBOE has publicly discussed removing this requirement. It seemed that the sentiment was undervote notification was probably not a good idea after all, and an action item was assigned to determine what it would take to eliminate the undervote notification requirement, with Todd Valentine and Pat Murray to prepare a report for the next meeting.

A long and lively discussion about the timing numbers followed. Commissioner Kellner proposed that the high numbers for the Liberty DRE be ignored, and that a single number of voters for all DRE systems be set. Unfortunately, his suggestion was the Avante and Sequoia DRE numbers from the AIR study - 550 registered voters per DRE. NYVV's study has shown that no more than 200 registered voters per DRE should be allowed, so this proposal from Commissioner Kellner is unfortunately far too high, although he indicated he wanted a requirement for additional machines based on the expected number of voters who will use accessibility features. The State Board staff has done a preliminary report on numbers for DREs and scanners based on some data from other states which was referred to during the discussions. Director of Operations Anna Svizzero noted that the 550 voters per DRE number was far too high if you look at what other states are using - a number of states are using no more than 225 voters per DRE, and some less than that. By the way this corroborates NYVV's study, which calls for 200 registered voters per DRE.

Much discussion ensued about the proposed number of registered voters per scanner. Commissioner Kellner noted various reasons the AIR study numbers for scanners were too low, and suggested that 4000 registered voters per scanner be used. This matches the NYVV study recommendation for scanners. There was also a lot of discussion about the number of privacy booths needed for scanner systems. Staff had recommended that one privacy booth for every 100 registered voters be required in on-year elections, and 150 voters per booth in off-year elections. There was some discussion about whether this was too high.

Finally, the decision was made that Co-Executive Directors Zalen and Kosinski together with staff would prepare a formal proposal on the number of machines per voter to present to the Board at the next meeting. They were tasked with gathering more data about scanner systems from neighboring New England states (some has already been gathered). At that point, the Board will vote to approve the proposal for public comment. So the public will be given an opportunity to comment on the timing numbers. If the 550 registered voters per DRE is adopted, it will condemn New York voters to long lines and waiting times, so we're going to have a lot to say!

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Updated Oct. 27, 2009 by Valerie Castleman

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