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Election Day 2006 will be difficult unless Legislature gets moving

Opinion    Rochester Democrat and Chronicle   25 April 2005

(April 25, 2005) ? The efficiency and cooperation that led to New York's first on-time budget in 20 years must now spread to legislators' beleaguered attempts at voting reform. This state remains dead last in efforts to implement the federal Help America Vote Act, and time is running out.

The federal government is offering New York more than $200 million for voting modernization procedures that were mandated in 2001. Since then, the Senate and the Assembly have been unable to compromise on a reform plan, and the state has used up all possible deadline extensions.

If these reforms are not in place by 2006, the federal aid could disappear and New Yorkers would get stuck with the bill.

So it's upsetting that the Senate-Assembly conference committee that is supposed to be forging a compromise hasn't convened in four weeks. Its leaders left for spring break without even scheduling a meeting. That's beyond irresponsible.

The longer the Senate and Assembly wait to make decisions about acceptable voter identification and the ion of voting machines, for example, the harder it's going to be on election workers and voters next year. And the more potential for confusion and mishaps.

The state Board of Elections has said it is going to take at least 18 months to purchase and install 20,000 voting machines in New York. On that timetable, the state can barely make the deadline. Local boards of elections will almost certainly face a time crunch when training citizens and election workers to operate the new electronic machines.

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