Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law • Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY) • Citizens Union of the City of New York • Common Cause/ New York • Community Church of New York's Action for Justice Committee • Demos, A Network for Ideas & Action • Finger Lakes Election Committee • Gay Men’s Health Crisis • New York Public Interest Research Group, NYPIRG • People for the American Way/NY Office
For Immediate Release: For More Information Contact:
Tuesday, December 9, 2003 Neal Rosenstein: (212) 349-6460 (917) 669-4808 Rachel Leon: (212) 691-6421 (917) 847-3625
Kele Williams (212) 992-8637
Make New Voting Machines Fair, Secure and Accessible, Say Civic, Disability and Civil Rights Coalition
Urge Same Machines Around the State, Paper Trails and Full Accessibility
A broad coalition called on Governor George Pataki and the State Legislature to ensure that new voting machines purchased in New York be fair, secure and accessible. State officials are under a deadline to buy new machines before 2006 to be eligible for nearly $140 million in federal funds.
The groups - comprised of leading civic, disability and civil rights rights organizations - released an eight point statement in Albany today. (See attached.) In it, the groups called for:
· A new single voting machine statewide;
· Any new voting system to produce a paper record that offer voters the opportunity to verify that their votes were cast correctly;
· Features that would ensure full and equal access for voters with disabilities; and
· The repeal of a state law limiting the types of voting systems available for purchase. (Current state law requires a "full face" ballot - showing all offices up for election at the same time - significantly limiting the range of voting machines that can be considered for purchase.)
“New Yorkers deserve a top of the line voting machine that is both secure and fully accessible,” said Neal Rosenstein of the New York Public Interest Research Group, NYPIRG. “There are many promising voting technologies out there, but the state’s lack of action and our archaic laws mandating how the ballot be presented to voters, means we might get stuck with clunkers,” he added.
New York expects to receive close to $140 million in federal funds to replace its 19,800 mechanical machines statewide. The Help America Vote Act, (HAVA) was passed by congress after the controversial 2000 Presidential elections and provides states with funds to replace their voting systems. While the federal law mandates certain minimum standards for new machines, much discretion is left to the states.
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Page Two – Civics/New Voting Machines
"Unless New York provides a uniform voting system that is secure and fully accessible to New Yorkers with disabilities and limited English proficiency, votes will not be cast, counted and valued equally across the state," said Kele Williams, Associate Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.
"Purchasing new voting machines will fundamentally change how we vote in New York for the next generation. The state has a responsibility to get it right by ensuring the decision making process is open to the public. That's just not happening yet," said Rachel Leon of Common Cause/New York.
“New Yorkers must be sure that their votes count,” said Jillian Matundan of the Citizens Union of the City of New York. “We should not be rushing into purchasing voting machines that may do more harm than good. We need a statewide standard voting machine that allows voters the ability to verify their ballot, ensure the security of the votes cast, and allow accessibility to all New Yorkers,” she added
"It's one thing to buy hi-tech voting machines from corporate computer giants; it's quite another to let them count the votes," said Steven Carbó of Demos. "The public demands a fully transparent and accountable system for calculating election results."
"Voters with disabilities have waited too long for the opportunity to exercise the basic civil right to vote secretly and without assistance in public polling places with our fellow New Yorkers. We urge our legislators to allocate HAVA funding now, rescind the full face ballot law which significantly limits the range of voting machines that can be considered fur purchase, and buy machines that are fully accessible to voters with different disabilities as well as to those who speak languages other than English," said Sharon Shapiro-Lacks, Director of Advocacy, Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY)
"Our congregation believes that accessible, voter-verifiable paper audit trails are necessary to ensure the integrity of computerized voting systems," said Teresa Hommel of The Community Church of New York's Action for Justice Committee. "This is a democracy issue that should be non-partisan. Honest and verifiable elections are the foundation of people's basic trust in our elected government. All voters want to know that their ballot was recorded and counted correctly."
Roberta Cooper, Deputy Director of the New York Office of People For the American Way noted, "New York's full face ballot is an obsolete requirement that would be inconsistent with the intended user friendly and accessibility intentions of the Help America Vote Act."
Ana Oliveira, Executive Director of Gay Men’s Health Crisis noted, “Those most affected by AIDS – people of color, women and the poor – must have a strong political voice. A voting system that everyone can access and trust is critical to that voice being heard.”
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Page Three – Civics/New Voting Machines
Bo Lipari, of the Finger Lakes Election Committee, said "As a professional software engineer, I know that it is impossible to guarantee that voting machine software is defect free, or completely secure from tampering by insiders or outsiders with malicious intent. Computerized voting machines without a Voter Verified Paper Trail are an invitation to electoral disaster, and should not be used in New York State."
The New Voting Machines for New York State, Statement of Principles is available online at www.nypirg.org and is coordinated by The Citywide Coalition for Voter Participation and The New York State Citizen's Coalition on HAVA Implementation. Organizations endorsing the statement include: American Association of Jews from the Former USSR, NY Chapter, American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc., Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY), Citizen Action New York, Citizens Union Foundation of the City of New York, City Project, Inc., Clean Air Campaign, Inc., Coalition for the Homeless, Common Cause/New York, Community Church of New York, Demos: A Network for Ideas and Action, Disabilities Network of NYC, Finger Lakes Election Committee, Fingerlake Progressives, 504 Democratic Club, Gay Men's Health Crisis, JPAC (Joint Public Affairs for Older Adults), Long Island Progressive Coalition, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, National Association of Korean Americans - New York Chapter, National Association of Social Workers/New York City Chapter, New Immigrant Community Empowerment, New York Public Interest Research Group, Inc./NYPIRG, New York State Conference of NAACP Branches, New York State Instant Runoff Voting (NYSIRV), New York Statewide Senior Action Council, New York State Young Democrats Caucus of Color, New York State Young Democrats Disability Issues Caucus, People For the American Way - New York Office, Professional Staff Congress, Westchester Council Of The Blind, Westchester Disabled on the Move, Inc., Women's City Club of New York, Inc. and The Working Families Party of New York State.