WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 /U.S. Newswire/ With Super Tuesday just days away, New York is lagging behind the rest of the country in election reform. The state will not be prepared to meet the mandates of federally-ordered changes at polling places.
The findings are part of the recently-released Primary Education: Election Reform and the 2004 Presidential Race, a national look at election changes in key primary states as a result of the passage of the Help America Vote Act. It was produced jointly by electionline.org and The Century Foundation.
Changes to elections have been made nationwide in the wake of the passage of the Help America Vote Act. The bills central component, a $3.86 billion authorization to states to pay for new voting machines, voter registration databases and other election needs, is accompanied by federal election mandates.
That includes: provisional voting ballots for voters who believe they are registered but whose names are not on registration rolls; voter identification requirements for first-time voters who register by mail and do not include verification with their registration applications; and new machine standards and/or voter education programs to reduce spoiled or uncountable ballots.
New York has not enacted rules or legislation to implement the voter identification requirement of the law and election officials do not intend to implement those requirements for Super Tuesday. In addition, lawmakers in Albany have yet to create an administrative complaint procedure for voters who have problems at the polls, another requirement of the Help America Vote Act. Officials have said that the rules do not apply to presidential primaries, though other states are applying them to the primaries and federal law would seem to indicate otherwise. Both the state assembly and senate have passed a number of HAVA implementation bills addressing these issues, but the houses have not yet come to any agreement.
"Obviously, New York has a long way to go to meet the mandates of the Help America Vote Act," said Dan Seligson, editor of electionline.org and co-author of the report. "At this point, its hard to say how the Justice Department will respond to the states refusal to adopt mandatory provisions of the Act."
New York voters will also cast ballots on lever voting machines, a system that was specifically targeted for replacement by the Act with a nationwide "buyout" program. While the state has indicated it intends to upgrade the state's voting machines, it has sought a waiver until 2006 to complete the task.
"Lever machines and New York's full face ballot requirement have led to perennial accusations of confusion, breakdowns, and lost votes in New York City and elsewhere in the state," said Tova Andrea Wang, senior program officer and democracy fellow of The Century Foundation, and co-author of the report. "Lever machines were specifically targeted for an optional replacement program, but the state is not planning to get rid of them until 2006. As a result, the performance of the machines will be under even greater scrutiny than usual in this upcoming primary and in November's general election."
Primary Education explores the changes to voting procedures and potential for voting problems in the 22 early primary states that will be the key battlegrounds as the Democratic contenders seek to secure their partys presidential nomination. The report examines the impact of past and possible future litigation; controversies over new voting machines, electronic voting, and voter-verified audit trails; the effect of new mandates in states, including voter identification and provisional voting; and the ramifications of Californias gubernatorial recall election, during which a federal court considered delaying the vote because of continued punch-card machine usage around the state. The report also offers examples of misconceptions about election reform.
To read the entire "Primary Education" report visit http://www.electionline.org/site/docs/pdf/Primary%20Education
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