Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dutchess County Passes Resolution to Retain Lever Voting Machines

In a surprise move, at a regular monthly meeting otherwise largely devoted to the contentious 2009 budget proposals, the Dutchess County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution requesting that the State Legislature allow the county to retain its lever voting machines. The resolution had been introduced by Legislator David Kelly (R, Pawling, Beekman, East Fishkill) at the December 4th meeting of the Government Affairs and passed by unanimous consent out of committee. A similar resolution had been proposed to the entire legislature last month by Legislators Joel Tyner (D, Rhinbeck, Clinton) and Legislator Jim Doxsey (C, Town of Poughkeepsie) but had not been sent to committee.

In the past month members of the legislatively appointed Voting Integrity Task Force (VITF) of Dutchess County had twice addressed the legislature on the relationship of the anticipated adoption of op-scan voting system to the ballooning Board of Elections budget. The Dutchess County Election Commissioners had also sent a memorandum to the legislature outlining the growth in annual election costs attributable to the switch away from the lever machines to the op-scan technology.

It is customary for a unanimous consent resolution to be voted upon at the next meeting of the full legislature, however on Sunday the VITF was informed that the resolution was being pulled from the December 8th agenda and the vote postponed until the January meeting at which time the VITF was also scheduled to make a formal presentation of their research and recommendations. It therefore came as a surprise to some lawmakers and the public when ninety minutes into the meeting Mr. Kelly asked and was granted leave by unanimous vote to introduce the resolution as an agenda item, citing a bi-partisan desire to inform the state legislature as soon as possible of their request for authorization to keep the lever voting machines and thus keep elections "as straightforward as possible."

Video of the proceedings can be found here. Click on December 8th meeting. The introduction of the resolution starts at the 91.14 minute mark.

Our thanks to Legislators Doxsey, Kelly & Tyner for their role in forwarding this important resolution -- the first such formal expression of support for maintaining the lever machines by a county legislature in New York . Let 's work to spread the word and encourage other county legislatures to follow suit.

Full text of the resolution follows:

WHEREAS, for many decades Dutchess County has successfully used mechanical lever-style voting machines, with very few problems, and is desirous of continuing to do so, and

WHEREAS, New York State enacted the Election Reform and Modernization Act of 2005 (ERMA) and other laws that require all lever machines to be replaced and prohibit the use of any lever machines in any future elections in New York State, and

WHEREAS, Dutchess County believes that the continued used of lever-style voting machines is in the best interest of the public and should be permitted to be used in future elections, and

WHEREAS, the Dutchess County Legislature passed resolution #207026, requesting New York State to allow Dutchess County to continue the use of the lever voting machine, and

WHEREAS, the New York State legislation relating to voting machines far exceeds the federal requirements of HAVA (Help America Vote Act), and

WHEREAS, the State's statutorily required elimination of lever-style voting machines is unnecessary, inappropriate, and costly to Dutchess County taxpayers,
therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Dutchess County Legislature hereby requests the New York State Legislature and the New York State Board of Elections to enact laws, rules, and regulations that specifically authorize the continued use of lever-style voting machines, and be it further

RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to Governor David Paterson, New York State Senators Stephen Saland and Vincent Leibell, Members of the Assembly Greg Ball, Thomas Kirwan, Kevin Cahill, Joel Miller, and Marcus Molinaro, Member-elect of the Assembly Frank Skartados, Co-Executive Directors of the New York State Board of Elections Todd Valentine and Stanley Zalen, and New York State Board of Elections Commissioners James Walsh, Douglas Kellner, Evelyn Aquila, and Gregory Peterson.