The Department of Justice has filed a motion in its case against New York State for its failure to comply with the Help America Vote Act that is likely to make both the State Board of Elections and many reform groups extremely nervous. Most importantly, the DOJ argues that the State should have one accessible voting system in every polling place by September 2008 (a position embraced by the Democrats on the State Board and rejected by the Republicans), and should replace all lever machines in time for the November 2008 election (a position no one in New York seems to be advocating).
Perhaps just as disturbingly for the State Board, the DOJ states that "[i]n the absence of evidence of the demonstrated ability and willingness of the SBOE itself to make immediate progress toward these goals ... the Court may have to consider taking compliance out of the hands of the State and placing it in the hands of the Court or others appointed by the Court to achieve compliance with federal law." (emphasis added). In other words, someone other than state or local election officials may be making decisions about which voting systems New York buys.
The DOJ's most basic point seems to be that the fact that none of the machines currently comply with New York law is too bad -- the state must comply with federal requirements to replace lever machines ASAP.
Needless to say, some voting machine activists are outraged. I received this statement from Bo Lipari, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting earlier today:
The Department of Justice has made an mind-boggling claim - that while New York State has a right to require far higher voting system standards than those set by the Federal Government, we have no right to demand that voting machine vendors actually meet them. . . . The DOJ would force New York to use voting machines that have failed again and again in other states, regardless of state laws designed to protect our votes."
Get ready for another big fight in the ongoing voting machine wars.