Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Decision for 2008 Voting Machines Already Made?

While many of us at the Brennan Center were on vacation, Judge Sharpe held a hearing on DoJ's motion to force New York to comply with HAVA and purchase new electronic voting machines in time for the November '08 election.

There was a fair amount of commentary related to the hearing, but most of it missed what should have been the big story. While papers focused on the fact that Judge Sharpe threatened to throw Board of Election commissioners in jail, and insisted that the State Board offer a single plan by this Friday, there was far less focus on the fact that the Judge and the Department of Justice seemed to agree on what the solution was: specifically, that the Board should adopt a plan substantially similar to the one already submitted by the Democratic members of the Board (the Republicans submitted their own plan).

The Democratic plan (also referred to as the "Zalen Plan" for Co-Executive Director and Democratic board member Stanley Zalen) would ensure that the state had one accessible electronic voting machine in every polling place this November, but would stop short of replacing all lever machines with new electronic systems until 2009.

We've already stated on this blog that we think that's the right approach. It ensures that disabled voters in New York will be able to exercise the same rights as disabled voters in the rest of the country (namely vote on machines that make it substantially easier for many of them to vote independently and privately) without forcing the state to replace all lever machines with equipment that has not been adequately tested.

Of course, there's no guarantee that the Board will take the very strong suggestion offered by Judge Sharpe and Department of Justice to adopt this approach. But it's hard to believe they would defy a Federal Judge who was so obviously annoyed by their continued stalemate.

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