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What’s Next For New York? PDF  | Print |  Email
By Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verifie Voting   
June 18, 2008
DREs may be gone, but there’s much to do

If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, wonder no more. After the dust finally settled and DREs were no longer an option in New York, I took a little time off to rest, attended several State Board of Elections meetings, observed acceptance testing of the new Ballot Marking Devices in Albany, and contemplated NYVV’s focus for Phase Two of our campaign for election integrity. And make no mistake about it, there is still so much that we need to do.

Fighting off DREs and making it possible for New Yorkers to vote on paper ballots was an essential first step in our struggle. We needed to win the fight for paper ballots in order to have software independence and a means to audit the results reported by the scanners. The battle for paper ballots turned out to be a longer struggle than anyone anticipated – five long years. But we stuck it out, we fought hard and never let up, and we won. But sweet as this victory was my friends, it was only Phase One.

In one way, Phase One was easy because we were focused, indeed we needed to focus, on one issue and one issue only – paper ballots for New York. Now, in our new HAVA mandated environment, we no longer have that luxury since there are several important areas that require attention as we continue our work for election integrity.

Here are the top items on NYVV’s agenda for the next year, each equally important:

1) Audits – In 2009 we will have paper ballots marked directly by voters. That’s excellent. We will also have optical scanners which will count those ballots - the best we could do under HAVA, the US District Court ruling, and New York State Election Law. Since we know that electronic voting systems are potentially flawed and vulnerable (NYVV has written about this - see our September 2006 report) we’ve got to have a way to confirm the reported election results. The way we do that is by auditing elections.

In New York State, our election law requires a 3% audit of machines in each county. While this may be sufficient in some cases, current research indicates that this type of fixed-percentage audit is not good enough at detecting problems. Better is an approach called risk-based auditing. This week, NYVV will launch a campaign to make New York State election audits the best they can be and to provide New Yorkers with confidence that their votes have been accurately counted.

2) Voter Registration Database – new voting machines are not the only thing that HAVA brought us. Little noticed, but vitally important, is HAVA’s requirement that all states implement a statewide computerized database of registered voters. New York State’s database, NYSVOTER, is now operational and in use for the first time this year. One of the things NYSVOTER does is compare voter registration records against other government databases (Motor Vehicle Bureau, Social Security death records, etc). It flags voter registration records as unclear if there are mismatches or duplicate records, and it’s up to the county Boards of Elections to determine if all these flagged voters are actually legally registered. As of March 25, 2008, there were over 60,000 unresolved voters in New York State!

If you happen to be on this list you could show up at your polling place this November and find that you are not listed as a registered voter, even if you’ve been voting there for years! Obviously, this is a crucial issue and unlike new voting machines which won’t be used until 2009, this could definitely affect the 2008 election. In order for your vote to be counted, you’ve first got to be able to vote. NYVV will have much to say and much for you to do on this urgent voter registration issue in the next few months, so stay tuned.

3) Voting System and Election Oversight – It’s great that we now have paper ballots, but the vendors producing the scanners are the same ones with such horrendous records in other states. There’s no reason to expect they are going to do any better in New York unless we pay close attention and don’t allow them to conduct business as usual. It continues to be one of our vital missions to act as watchdogs over every aspect of elections – training, testing, ballot programming, ballot and machine chain of custody, the list goes on. We’ve all got to start thinking of ourselves not just as voters, but as citizen overseers responsible for carefully watching the way our elections are conducted; making sure they are honest, accurate, and serving the interests not of voting machine vendors, not of political parties, but of citizens.

4) Poll workers – There’s a poll worker crisis in New York. County Boards of Elections are desperate for more people willing to work the polls on Election Day. And in this new post-HAVA era, we need citizens who are at the polls every hour of every minute of every Election Day, to assist voters, watch ballots and machines, and participate in the running of our elections in the 21st Century. We’ve got to make it one of our key goals this year and every year to recruit many new poll workers and help our fellow citizen get involved in elections in a deeper way. It’s obvious that you need to get out and vote. What may not be so obvious is that you also need to get out and be a poll worker.

You’ll be hearing much more in the coming months from NYVV on these four big issues – Audits, Voter Registration Databases, Voting System Oversight, and Poll worker recruitment. Our work is not over, not by a long shot. It’s only just begun.
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