The US Department of Justice is going to the courts in a bid to force New York State to buy its preferred voting machines in time for the 2008 election. New York State's Board of Elections has declined to hold an open discussion on how to respond.
New York State has so far refused to buy the voting machines approved as part of the "Help America Vote Act" (HAVA), because research by California state officials has shown them to be vulnerable to tampering. The state argues that there is not enough time before the elections next autumn for it to certify the machines to its own satisfaction.
HAVA sets aside money to help states modernise their voting equipment, but makes it compulsory that they do so. New York argues that although there might be federally-approved machines available, there isn't any kit out there yet that meets the state's requirements.
Last week, the DOJ launched its legal battle in a District Court to force NYS to comply with the laws set out in HAVA. The state has two weeks to file its response, and voted 3-1 to prepare that response in a closed session.
"When we do have decisions, they will certainly be known to everybody," commissioner Evelyn Aquila told the media.
According to Information Week Neal Rosenstein, election specialist for New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), issued a statement from the steps of City Hall accusing the DOJ of running roughshod over New York. He was protesting the DOJ's lawsuit, along with New York City council member Simcha Felder.
"The DOJ proposal to force New York to use voting machines that have proven to cause problems in other states is outrageous," Felder said.
Rosenstein added: "They seem unconcerned about the chaos and confusion a full-scale replacement of our lever machines could mean in the upcoming presidential election less than a year away.
"To make matters worse, DOJ is insisting that we use weak voting machine standards that are more than five years old. Who in their right mind would want to buy a five-year-old computer that's been shown to be hackable and insecure when they could get a newer model tested to higher standards?"
You can read up on the background to this story here in a blog post by Andi Novick, a member of Northeast Citizens for Responsible Media. ®