We just received a copy of a letter signed by Congressmen McHugh, Kuhl, Reynolds, Walsh, Fossella and King sent to Paul Clement, acting Attorney General for the U.S Department of Justice ("DOJ"). Our undertanding is the letter was today submitted by Republican State Board of Elections Commissioners to Judge Sharpe, who has jurisdiction over the DOJ's lawsuit against the State for failure to comply with the Help America Vote Act.
As we've previously discussed, Judge Sharpe has asked the State Board to come up with a plan to have one accessible voting machine in every polling place by September 2008. This is something New York was required to have done by January 1, 2006.
The crux of the argument in the Congressmen's letter appears to be that purchases of accessible units now would be an "abject waste of taxpayer money" before non-accessible electronic voting units had been certified statewide.
This is almost certainly untrue: as we pointed out in a previous post, ballot makring devices (BMDs), which are computers that disabled voters can use to fill out their ballots, have been used in much of the country for several years. They can be used in conjunction with Optical Scanners, once the Optical Scanners are certified to New York State's (rightly) rigorous standards. As we noted in that previous post, when Optical Scanners are eventually certified:
able-bodied voters will have the choice of filling out ballots by hand, and then running them through the scanners, or joining disabled voters to use the BMDs to fill out their ballots, and running them through the scanners.
New York shouldn't waste any more time in providing disabled voters with the same right to vote independently and privately that disabled voters have in all 49 other states.