The state Senate has passed a bill (S4088-Golden) authorizing the New York City Board of Elections to use mechanical lever machines in the upcoming election for mayor and the potential runoff election.
Also passed on the same day was a bill (S. 3705-Martins) that completely eliminates the sunset date for the use of these machines, which was only initially put in place to allow time for transitioning to accessible electronic optical scanner machines, which are already available and mandated by law to be used in federal election.
These bills will further stall the implementation of accessible voting machines for local, village and special district elections, essentially depriving individuals with disabilities a private and independent vote.
As a compromise to that bill, Michael Cusick, D-Staten Island, chairman of the Assembly Election Committee, has sponsored A. 7832, which mandates that the these local elections must include an accessible electronic voting machine, as well as expand the runoff election from two weeks after the primary to three weeks to allow more time for election officials to verify ballots.
The issue of election reform is one of my main focuses as the systems advocate at the Resource Center for Accessible Living. Advocates such as myself repeatedly go to and call Albany to influence policymakers. But if we do not have a well-established, informed, interested and involved citizenry, what reason do politicians have to listen if we do not possess a collective influence strong enough to shift the outcome of their election?
As it stands now, the state Legislature still insists on not only maintaining barriers to fair elections, but creating them by passing legislation that implements the use of aged and inaccessible machines for the sake of time and at the expense of excluding voters with disabilities.