Thursday, February 14, 2008

City Election Oversight Alright

This afternoon the Brennan Center offered testimony before the New York City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations Council of the City of New York. Chaired by Brooklyn Councilman Simcha Felder, who is equal parts astute and charming, the oversight hearing focused on improving democracy and increasing participation in the electoral process. Also present were Councilmen Peter Vallone, Jr. and Domenic M. Recchia, Jr., and DeNora Getachew, Councilman Felder’s Legislative Council.

I, along with NYC Voter Assistance Commission Executive Director Onida Coward Mayers, Susan Lerner of Common Cause, Neal Rosenstein of NYPIRG, Teresa Hommel of www.WheresThe, activist Dan Jacoby and David Greenfield of the Sephardic Community Federation, among others, offered a wide array of testimony about issues ranging from the wise selection of optical scan-based technology for accessible machines in every polling place this fall, the impending selection of new voting machinate technology to replace all lever machines; the undue delay for party affiliation changes; and Election Day or automatic voter registration. We all look forward to working with the City Council on the range of issues, and hail the committee for its consistent commitment from seeking public comment and fostering a dialogue.

While it took some wrangling on the part of the State Board of Elections to get this far and approve optical scan-based accessible voting machines, we applaud the Commissioners and Co-Executive Directors for their final decision. However, until the next deadline passes in October, we reiterate our fierce opposition to the full-face DRE, or “touchscreen machine,” for several reasons outlined in a letter by my colleague Lawrence Norden.

However, unlike the robust discussion in the city legislature, Albany has shown no recent leadership—dare I say interest—on issues of Help America Vote Act (HAVA) compliance or general election administration. Since the state has been more than 25 months late to comply with HAVA’s requirement to replace our lever machines, we are unaware of any committee hearing, opportunity for public testimony or even a public letter from the Assembly Election Law or Senate Elections Committees.

Frankly, there’s no excuse for Albany’s legislative absenteeism in balloting.

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