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Accessible Voting and New York PDF  | Print |  Email
By Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting   
March 12, 2008
This article was posted at Bo Lipari's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Board Ignores Advice from Citizen Committee

On February 27 the New York State Board of Election Commissioners voted to approve four systems for use as ballot marking devices (BMDs) in 2008. In evaluating the machines, the Board used functional test reports performed by SysTest, and an advisory report prepared by the Citizens Election Modernization Advisory Committee (CEMAC). The CEMAC report recommended that two AutoMARK models and the ImageCast systems be approved. But the committee advised that the Avante and LibertyMark machines were unusable by voters with disabilities, and should not be approved by the Board.

CEMAC was established by the New York State Legislature to advise the State Board of Elections on the adoption of new voting systems. Members includes advocates for the disabled as well as county election commissioners from both major parties. I am a member of CEMAC, appointed by the League of Women Voters of New York State, participated in the evaluations, and drafted the report. Our findings were based on evaluations of the systems being considered by the state that we performed in the last several months. After several evaluation sessions, the committee unanimously recommended that the LibertyMark machine NOT be authorized for use as it was not usable by the vast majority of voters with disabilities.


Unfortunately, three of the four commissioners decided to ignore the CEMAC report findings, and approved the LibertyMark DRE for use as a ballot marking device despite its failure to provide minimal accessibility standards. The reasons given for approval of the DRE were revealing, and showed how pervasive vendor influence over the State Board has become, and how terrified the commissioners seem to be that the vendors might again challenge their decision in court (validating the vendor strategy of legally challenging every Board decision). Unfortunately, review of the meeting transcript and the statements by the commissioners supporting the LibertyMark shows a clear bias towards vendors, not voters.

Only one commissioner, Douglas Kellner, voted to follow the recommendations of CEMAC and not approve the LibertyMark system. As he noted, the very purpose of CEMAC is to provide advice to the Board that cannot be obtained through the functional testing performed by SysTest. Even the SysTest consultant attending the meeting concurred that the CEMAC report was complimentary to their work, and provided valuable insights on real world usability that they do not test for, and should be taken seriously.

The New York State Board of Elections vote to approve the LibertyMark DRE for use as a ballot marking device sheds light on what’s really behind all the happy talk we get about how the Board is serving the needs of New York’s voters. When the Board approves a machine for use by voters with disabilities in spite of the warning from these very voters that the system is unusable, you know whose interests are really being served.

Read an open letter to the Board on their decision by Wanda Warren Berry here.

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