Thursday, January 04, 2007

How Ciber's Problems May Help New York

Christopher Drew of the New York Times reports today that Ciber, the laboratory hired by New York State to test its new voting systems, has been temporarily barred from approving new machines.

At first blush, this might appear to be another voting system catastrophe for New York -- just one more bump on its incredibly slow and bumpy road to complying with the Help American Vote Act ("HAVA") and finally purchasing new voting machines (New York is behind every state in the nation in approving and buying new machines).

In fact, however, Ciber's problems may be just the excuse New York needs to get out of a sticky situation. Last year, after being sued by the Department of Justice for its failure to comply with HAVA's mandate to purchase new machines (while still taking money for them), New York State agreed -- under a court ordered consent decree -- to purchase and use new voting machines by September 2007. As the Albany Times Union and others reported last month, the New York State Board of Elections has recently determined that complying with this deadline was not going to be possible.

This was troubling for a number of reasons, not least that it might mean a loss of millions of dollars for New York. As the Times Union noted in December:

It's also unclear whether the latest setback will further jeopardize federal money the state was to get to help modernize its voting systems. New York was slated to receive at least $200 million, but the Justice Dept. may seek to cut that by $50 million for the missed deadlines so far.

The State is going to have to go back to the Justice Department and the Federal Court and work out a new agreement. It seems likely that Ciber's problems will provide the State with some cover as it seeks to have the consent order re-opened and modified.

Categories: General, Voting

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