Money coming for voting machines
State isn't sure what it will buy
with $153.4 million from federal government.
June 09, 2005
By Erik Kriss
The federal government is sending New
York $153.4 million to help buy new voting machines
even though state lawmakers still haven't agreed what kind of machines the
state should have in place by next year's elections.
The money represents the balance of New
York's federal aid under the 2002 Help America Vote
Act, or HAVA, which requires new state voting systems by next year to avoid a
repeat of Florida's fiasco in the
2000 presidential elections.
is the last state to get all of its federal money; only Guam
is still waiting.
Even though New
York has delayed the tough decision about a new
voting system, HAVA requires only that states appropriate a 5 percent match and
adopt an administrative complaint procedure to get all their federal aid.
did both at the end of March.
The 2005 state legislative session
is scheduled to end June 23, and lawmakers say they're well aware that they
need an agreement on new voting machines by then.
have said they need 18 months to implement whatever plan the state devises. The
U.S. Justice Department could take action against New
York if, as is virtually certain, new machines aren't
in place by Jan. 1.
If new machines are still not in
place by the first federal election of 2006 likely a fall primary New
York is supposed to return its federal aid to the
U.S. Treasury, according to Jeannie Layson,
spokeswoman for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
HAVA requires that New
York replace its lever voting machines with a system
that allows disabled people to vote without assistance. State and local
officials are debating the merits of electronic touch-screen machines vs.
optical scan paper ballot readers.
State Assemblyman Keith Wright,
D-Manhattan, who chairs the Election Law Committee, said New
York will have "a big problem" if lawmakers
don't pass a law creating a new voting system in the next two weeks. His Senate
"I am absolutely aware and
extraordinarily sensitive to the fact that we need to do this before we leave Albany
this session," said Sen. John Flanagan, R-Suffolk, chairman of the Senate
Election Law Committee. "I am confident that we will get it done."
Wright and Flanagan have tentatively
agreed to let county elections commissioners choose from whatever machines the
state allows. But final agreement on the parameters of those machines has been
"They won't even come to the
table," Wright said of the Senate's majority Republicans. "We've made
numerous phone calls. My creditors know how to find me, and I hide from
"I'm certainly not hiding from
anybody," Flanagan said