Assembly Passes Plan to Modernize Elections

Help America Vote Act will help protect the votes of all New Yorkers
January 25, 2005

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D – Ulster, Dutchess) announced today that the Assembly once again passed an election reform package that would, if enacted, serve to modernize and safeguard New York’s antiquated voting process. The legislation passed today would also bring the state into compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA).

"The right to vote and the knowledge that your vote will be counted are the foundations our democracy is built upon," said Mr. Cahill. "The legislation we passed today protects the voting rights of all New Yorkers as we move forward with the implementation of the federal Help America Vote Act."

Assemblymember Cahill has taken a lead role in the debate on election reform, this past year he represented the Assembly in a joint conference committee convened to provide a public forum for the State Senate and Assembly to hammer out the differences in their HAVA implementation legislation. An important component of the Assembly package passed today would finally require polling places in New York to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (A.120), ensuring disabled citizens full access to their respective voting locations. Mr. Cahill, the prime sponsor of this legislation, stated, "This bill is significant in removing some of the barriers our disabled voters are forced to overcome while performing their civic duties." The Assemblymember went on to add, "It has been fifteen years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, the fact that some polling sites in New York are still inaccessible is inexcusable. Our disabled citizens should always be afforded the same rights and privileges granted to all other New Yorkers."

The Assembly’s HAVA implementation would modernize and safeguard New York’s elections with the following measures:

  • banning punch card ballots; requiring the adoption of a single type of voting machine with a voter-verified paper audit trail; and ensuring voting machines which are fully accessible to people with disabilities are present at every polling place (A.5);
  • consolidating election operations at the county level – ensuring elections are run consistently and polling places are adequately staffed with well-trained workers (A.122);
  • creating a statewide computerized voter registration list with proper privacy protections – helping to ensure voters get in and out of the polls quickly, record votes accurately and prevent voter fraud (A.121);
  • providing for an administrative complaint procedure administered by the state Board of Elections (A.119); and
  • establishing basic guidelines to ensure people with disabilities have access to polling sites (A.120).

"The Help America Vote Act was passed to restore confidence in our elections and ensure that our collective experiences at the polls do not serve as a deterrent to future participation in the electoral process," said Mr. Cahill. "The Assembly’s well thought out plan will help to facilitate greater voter participation by addressing the concerns of New Yorkers from all walks of life."

"Four years after the 2000 debacle our country’s electoral system is still hampered by voter confusion and frustration. Right here in New York we still awaiting the results of a State Senate race that is tied up in the courts due to the very problems HAVA was supposed to solve," Mr. Cahill noted. "I believe it is imperative for the State Senate to act on their HAVA legislation as soon as possible so that we might reconvene a conference to committee to produce a bipartisan election reform package this year."