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Star-Gazette Albany Bureau

 

Senator seeks $10M to aid disabled voters

By CARA MATTHEWS

 

May 17, 2006

 

ALBANY -- Most counties plan to purchase just one machine for disabled voters this fall -- an insufficient number that could spell trouble on Election Day, according to a senator who said Tuesday he wants the state to distribute $10 million to buy more.

 

Getting the new machines are part of what the state has to do to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act, which is supposed to modernize the voting process and give people with disabilities better access to the polls.

 

The federal law mandated that new equipment be in place for all voters by this fall. The state was not able to meet that deadline and the U.S. Department of Justice sued. As a stop-gap measure, the state and federal government, through the court system, are fashioning a "plan B" for disabled voters to cast their ballots unassisted in 2006.

 

The head of the Senate Elections Committee called the plan lacking.

 

"Frankly it is a bad plan. It is unacceptable. It does not do enough to protect people who have any type of disability," said Sen. John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County. "It doesn't give them the right and the privilege to have full access to voting the way everybody else can and should have."

 

Flanagan said he plans to propose legislation calling on the state to spend $10 million for more handicapped-accessible machines this year. He has support from in the GOP-led Senate, he said. The $10 million could be taken from interest earned on HAVA funding provided to New York, he offered.

 

Based on a summary of what counties plan to purchase for this fall, which the Board of Elections filed with the court, counties could buy up to about 290 machines.

 

Flanagan estimated that, at the high end, a machine might cost about $10,000, so $10 million could cover 1,000 of them.

 

Copyright 2006 Star-Gazette.