Monday, May 4, 2009

Essex County Rejects State-Mandated Electronic Voting System

Elizabethtown, NY --

Essex County wants to keep using its dependable lever voting machines, according to today's vote by the Board of Supervisors. Citing the "insurmountable" costs of the optical-scan systems mandated by the Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA), the Board passed a resolution "supporting the continuation of our lever voting machines together with Ballot Marking Devices (BMD) and rejecting the use of a computerized voting system[.]" The resolution requests that the State Legislature and Board of Elections enact the necessary laws to allow counties to keep their current election systems.

Today's action by Essex County follows similar resolutions passed by Dutchess, Columbia, Ulster, Schuyler, and Greene Counties and the Association of Towns. Other counties are considering similar action.

"I'm really gratified that Essex County showed such leadership and am hoping it will encourage other counties to join, and ultimately to join in litigation with citizens to challenge the constitutionality of ERMA," said Andrea Novick, legal counsel for the Election Transparency Coalition. The Coalition has prepared litigation challenging ERMA on constitutional grounds, as the State Constitution prohibits concealed vote counting. Software-based systems tabulate votes in a way that cannot be observed by election staff, official observers, or anyone else.

New York is the only state in the U.S. that counts all its votes in a manner that is verifiable and avoids the risk of incorrect election results resulting from computer malfunction or manipulation. In response to the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) nearly the entire nation adopted software-based voting systems, despite the federal government's failure to provide the funding for this changeover.

New York achieved HAVA compliance by outfitting every polling place in the state with a ballot marking device to assist voters with disabilities. The BMD provides a computer interface that creates a paper ballot; these ballots are counted by hand on election night at the polling place.

It is not HAVA but New York's response to HAVA, the Election Reform and Modernization Act, ERMA, which is the legislative mandate to replace the levers. Unless amended, repealed, or declared unconstitutional, ERMA would require electronic tabulators to be used in all NY counties. Electronic voting systems have proven to be problematic throughout the nation, breaking down, losing votes, and leading the public to question announced election results.