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PR- 401-06
November 15, 2006


“Last week, New Yorkers cast their ballots on voting machines that are more than 40 years old.  This afternoon, I will attend a demonstration of five new models of voting machines, one of which the City Board of Elections will eventually purchase.  Yet the unfortunately reality is, no matter which model the City Board of Elections ultimately chooses, because of intransigence and endless delay in Albany, it will be virtually impossible to replace the old machines in time for the 2007 elections, as Federal law requires.  This is a failure of the State Board of Elections, which is a study in inertia and accountable only to the leaders of the two major political parties, not to the people.  But blame also rests with our state elected officials, who only last year passed legislation implementing the 2002 Help America Vote Act – the last state in the nation to do so.  Now, the time has come not only to bring our voting machines into the 21st Century, but also the Board of Elections itself.

“The perpetual foot-dragging at the State Board of Elections has resulted in a situation where, five years after the Federal government passed the Help America Vote Act, the State Board of Elections has only just begun to test and certify machines.  This process is not expected to be completed until February 2007.  As a result, the City Board of Elections will not be able to select and purchase new voting machines until February or March – only six months before the September 2007 primary.  That will make it all but impossible to acquire, test, and deploy machines – as well as train workers and educate New Yorkers – in time for the 2007 elections.

“Even though more than a year has passed since the State passed HAVA, the State Board of Elections has also yet to decide whether to revise the current ratio of people-per-voting machine, which currently requires one machine for every 800 voters.  These unknown variables not only make it exceedingly difficult for the City Board of Elections to begin planning for the 2007 election, they also make it difficult for our Administration to estimate the upcoming budgetary impacts.  Worse still, by failing to comply with Federal deadlines, it appears that the State may forfeit $50 million in Federal funds, of which New York City would lose $20 million.  Inadvertent or not, the state’s forgoing of millions in Federal money to pay for new voting machines, and demanding instead that City and State taxpayers foot the bill, is a serious dereliction of duty.

“Our elected officials in Albany bungled an important issue, and when they finally punted to the State Board of Elections, we have seen more of the same – a total absence of any sense of urgency.  Under the strong leadership of John Ravitz, our City Board of Elections has instituted many positive reforms and is doing as good a job as possible – under exasperating circumstances – in preparing to select and deploy the new voting machines.  Yet it is clear from the glaring failures of the State Board that we need a complete overhaul of the way we administer elections.  Hiring decisions should be based on merit, not party connections.  Other states and nations put professional, nonpartisan administrators in charge of their elections; we should too. 

“In the short-term, I urge our state elected officials to kick-start the State Board of Elections, which they control, and expedite the testing and certification process of new voting machines.  And in the coming year, I urge our elected officials to work with me to push for improvements to the entire elections system, so that we can give voters and taxpayers what they deserve: an accountable, professional, innovative, customer service-driven elections agency.”


Stu Loeser   (212) 788-2958

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