By MARC HUMBERT
AP Political Writer
October 31, 2006, 3:26 PM EST
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Already the worst in the nation for complying with new voting standards, New York may again stretch the deadline for counties to order new voting machines, raising new fears about whether they will be available for next year's elections, a state official said Tuesday.
Lee Daghlian, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said the board may decided at its meeting on Wednesday to push back the required date for counties to order the machines to "late January or sometime in February."
The deadline had already been shoved back to early January from mid-December.
Daghlian said slower-than-expected state testing of new machines to replace the decades old lever-action machines still used in New York was responsible for the possible new delay.
The state board spokesman said that even with the new delay, New York could possibly make the state-mandated 2007 election deadline for the new machines.
"But if it keeps getting lengthened we might not make it," Daghlian said.
Bo Lipari, a representative of the League of Women Voters on a state advisory panel dealing with replacing voting machines, was less optimistic than Daghlian.
"A delay like this probably puts the nail in the coffin for replacing lever machines in 2007," said Lipari, who is also executive director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting.
New York has been slower than all other states in complying with the federal Help America Vote Act adopted in the wake of the disputed 2000 presidential election. The U.S. Justice Department sued New York earlier this year to force it to install new voting machines for the disabled and compile statewide voter registration lists in time for this year's elections. A court settlement was negotiated to bring New York into compliance.
Nonetheless, state officials are also facing a state-adopted law requiring that the lever-action machines still being used by voters this year be replaced by the 2007 election.
Also at issue is about $50 million already received by the state in federal aid to help pay for the voter system upgrade. State officials have asked federal officials not to require the return of those funds.
Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.