- a letter dated Jan. 10, 2006 from Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, to Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General and Todd Valentine, General Counsel, New York State Board of Elections.
Your state tax dollars hard at work.
HAVA, the Help America Vote Act, is a poorly crafted piece of legislation put in place following the disastrous 2000 Presidential election that exposed the gaping holes in our electoral process.
The New York State Legislature, called the "most dysfunctional in nation," showed why in the legislation it used to punt the issue of voting technology to the state Board of Elections and the counties...
... One of the issues exposed in 2000 was the vast difference in the reliability of voting methods from county to county. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled because of these vast differences that a recount in some counties but not others would be a violation of the "equal protection" clause...
... thus setting New York up for the very problem that was already declared a violation of The Constitution.
The New York State Board of Elections has since dithered around in certifying machines as compliant therefore the 62 County Legislatures and Boards of Elections have been unable to make decisions on machinery.
And now the U.S. Department of Justice is threatening to sue the State of New York over HAVA non-compliance.
A Justice Department letter told state officials this week that it had authorized a lawsuit against New York for failing to comply with the law. The letter said that the department hoped to settle the matter by negotiating a court order with the state instead going to court but that "we are prepared to file a complaint if the matter is not resolved expeditiously."
New York's failure to address the issue is in part the result of gridlock in Albany, which took years to pass legislation to put the state into compliance. Some of the delay was caused because legislation to comply with the federal law was held up by a partisan squabble over appointments at the state's Board of Elections.
New York State Legislature, the "most dysfunctional in nation...."
The Board of Elections is still hearing public comments about what kind of standards to require for voting machines. Once it publishes its guidelines, voting machine manufacturers (and their legions of well-paid lobbyists) will scramble to try to get their machines approved and then to sell them to local elections boards. Some local officials say it is unlikely that they will be able to get the new machines up and running for the 2006 elections, when New Yorkers will choose a governor, a United States senator and 212 state lawmakers.
"Somewhere down the line we will have to advise the boards whether we think they're going to have time to get this done properly before the election," Mr. Daghlian [State Board of Elections spokesman] said.
New York City declared long ago that it could not possibly be prepared in time to use new machines in 2006 no matter which machines were chosen.
Dan Seligson, the editor of a nonpartisan Web site, electionline.org, that tracks the compliance with the Help America Vote Act, said New York was "dead last nationally."
"I think that other states can demonstrate that they have made a good-faith effort to comply, but that they had difficulties with vendors, problems with machines," he said. "In New York, they can't claim that."
Connecticut declared last week that it would not be able to comply and would continue to use lever machines in 2006. Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said the state will use its mechanical lever machines one more time, because no vendor offered a replacement that meets state and federal requirements. "We were misled by the finalist company, because they said they could meet all the requirements," Bysiewicz said.
"The governor and the Legislature dragged their feet for so many months, it put New York behind the eight-ball," said Miriam Kramer, the government policy analyst for the New York Public Interest Research Group. "Now is the time to urge the federal government for a waiver, so we can do it right, within an appropriate time frame, but not rushing, while maintaining an open and transparent process and enfranchising as many New Yorkers as possible."
The DOJ letter concluded...
"We are hopeful that we will be able to resolve this matter through a negotiated consent decree rather than through costly and protracted litigation. We request that you contact us as soon as possible to indicate whether the State is willing to enter into negotiations for a fair and equitable settlement of this matter that will remedy these violations. To that end, we are prepared to meet with the State promptly to discuss terms of a possible consent decree. We are prepared to file a complaint if the matter is not resolved expeditiously."
"Somewhere down the line we will have to advise the boards whether we think they're going to have time to get this done properly before the election," Mr. Daghlian said.
Your state tax dollars hard at work... losing you your federal tax dollars.