Elections are the lifeblood of our democracy, but they are meaningless without public trust. The 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida, and the hail of media attention that followed, brought the flaws in the election process into sharp focus.
A healthy democracy requires that voters can cast their ballots easily and without any doubt that their vote was recorded accurately.
To improve the voting process in New York, the Assembly and Senate stepped up to pass legislation that makes strides toward restoring faith in the election process, and strengthening some of the weaknesses in federal election law.
The first bill would head off vote counting errors associated with damaged or improperly marked ballots by allowing voters to get a replacement ballot upon handing over an original spoiled paper ballot. Another would require a posting at each poll site of information relating to voting, the ballot and voter rights. The third bill in the Legislative package ensures that those enlisted in the service of our country are able to participate in elections by making military ballot applications valid through the next two federal elections after submission.
These bills show progress in updating the election process, but there is yet more work to be done. To help move New York's elections into the 21st century, the Assembly also passed several bills which I supported that would streamline the administration of elections, create a uniform computerized voter registration list, and move the state toward standardized, electronic voting machines.
The Assembly’s additional measures would ensure New York’s compliance with the Help America Vote Act – a federal law to help elections across the nation run smoothly and ensure everyone eligible to vote can register easily and cast their votes with certainty.
One measure to consolidate election operations at the county level would help ensure elections are run consistently and polling places are adequately staffed with well-trained workers. Another would create a computerized, centralized, interactive statewide voter registration list with proper privacy protections to help ease confusion at the polls.
These bills represent solid, bipartisan progress toward implementing the Help America Vote Act in New York. But much work remains, and I urge the Senate to get behind the other bills in our package.
HAVA offers New York State the opportunity to increase voter participation and modernize the voting process. It’s long overdue to bring 21st century technology to our voters – and ensure the integrity of our elections.