Tuesday, January 29, 2008

We Never Cease to Be Amazed

This is depressing.

As some may recall from earlier posts, the State Board of Elections did not authorize the Liberty DRE for purchase by February 8 because Doug Kellner, a Democrat on the Board, determined it did not comply with New York law.

The Republican commissioners were not very happy about this. For some reason, they really, really wanted that DRE to be authorized for purchase (who can say why?). They nearly blocked the authorization of any system as a result, but eventually relented after a tense 24 hour standoff. It looked like three systems (all ballot marking devices --meaning machines that mark a paper ballot) were authorized for purchase.

But today, we learn, the Board essentially reversed itself. Two of the three ballot marking devices -- THE ONLY TWO THAT HAVE EVER BEEN USED BEFORE IN AN ELECTION IN THE UNITED STATES -- have been taken off the table.

Assuming all of this stands (at least one vendor lawsuit is pending -- we now expect to see more), New York counties will have only have one choice of voting machine -- and it will be one that has never been used before in this country.

What's doubly depressing about this decision is that one of the systems rejected today may well have been the most accessible system. If we understand correctly, it could have allowed disabled voters to cast their ballots without ever having to handle the ballots themselves (something that is very important to many advocates for both blind voters and voters who manual dexterity impairments).

But why should any of this matter? If a Democrat like Doug Kellner can block one system, why shouldn't the Republicans be able to block another? Given what we know, we have a hard time believing the decision had anything to do with which system was best for disabled voters, or New Yorkers in general.

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