Katherine B. Wolpe

 

Testimony before the

Governmental Operations Committee

New York City Council

April 24, 2006

 

Private Influence at our State Board of Elections

Why We Need Resolution 228

 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today.

 

In December, 2005, I spoke before the State Board of Elections on the first draft of our State Voting Systems Standards.

 

The fifth draft of these regulations has just been adopted, but the public has not been permitted to see the regulations since an earlier draft. We do not know yet what is in the regulations that were approved. But we learned at the State Board of Elections meeting on Thursday, April 20, that during the last week before approval, while the public was told that the State Board had received sufficient comments and did not need any more from us, Sequoia Voting Systems had an opportunity to examine and suggest changes to the last draft, some of which were apparently accepted.

 

This is a key symptom of privatization, when vendors or industry representatives write the regulations for the agency that is supposed to regulate them.

 

This is why we need Resolution 228, and it is unfortunate that state law preempts local law in this area so that the City Council can pass only a resolution. But we need to see those machines work before our Board of Elections signs any contract. We need every one of those measures that are listed.

 

At the County Election Commissioners meeting in May, 2005, vendors of electronic voting machines filled two hallways with their products. During a plenary session in the ballroom adjacent to those hallways, a key employee of the State Board of Elections swept her hand in a grand gesture toward the hallways and declared I am ready to certify all the equipment out there. Indeed, she told the truth. She was ready then.

 

Far be it for regulations to get in the way of certification. She wants those computers, and she is not the only one. There is a lot of money at stake. If this City Council and this committee dont represent the people and amplify our small voices, who will?

 

Thank you.