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Brennan Center Applauds Decision of NYS Board of Elections to Reject Full-Face DREs

The body essentially rejected a systems that would have been confusing to voters and could have caused hundreds of thousands of votes to be lost

January 25, 2008
For Immediate Release: Thursday, January 24, 2008

Contact: Mike Webb, (212) 998–6746 

Earlier Research from Brennan Center Cast Doubt on DRE Machines That Had Been Under Consideration

New York—Voting technology experts at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law applauded today’s decision by the New York State Board of Elections to approve ballot marking devices for use by the disabled in New York’s 2008 elections and to reject the authorization of full-face DREs. The Brennan Center urged the Board to again reject full-face DREs when it comes time to replace New York’s antiquated lever voting machines in 2009.

“Last night it looked like we were heading for another classic Albany deal where politicians reach an agreement behind closed doors and voters are left holding the bag. To say I’m pleasantly surprised at where we ended up this morning would be a dramatic understatement,” said Lawrence Norden, Counsel at the Brennan Center and director of the Center’s Voting Technology Assessment Project.

“The best news is that the Board rejected expensive and untested full-faced DREs. These systems would have been preposterously confusing to voters and could have caused hundreds of thousands of votes to be lost,” said Norden.

“Today’s decision should give New Yorkers the peace of mind that when they cast their ballot their choices will be recorded accurately,” he added.

Norden cautioned that one of the systems approved today, the Sequoia Imagecast, has never been used in the United States. Norden urged county election officials to subject the system to rigorous review before purchasing it.

Norden also urged voters to remain vigilant that the Board’s decision to require modifications to the systems they selected today does not result in the creation of a new loophole permitting needlessly confusing full-face ballots on the screens of the new machines.

The decision by the Board came after the Brennan Center (joined by several other groups) sent a letter oppposing any decision by the State Board that would authorize the purchase of full face DRE’s. Noting the Center’s history of litigation in New York on the issue, the letter states that the organization hoped that “further litigation will not be necessary to preclude New York counties from purchasing voting machines that potentially will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in violation of state and federal law.”

In November the Brennan Center released research that cast doubt on the reliability of full-face DRE machines that had initially been considered for purchase by the Board. The data showed that full faced touch-screen machines did not record the votes of 15.4 percent of voters for state ballot initiatives, nearly double the rate of the other machines being considered by officials.

Norden is available today to discuss the Board’s decision with members of the media.