The New York State Supreme Court has ruled on Suffolk County Executive Steven Levy’s suit maintaining that the County is allowed to keep it’s lever machines under NY’s Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA), now part of State Election Law.
The Court ruled that ERMA is clear -“effective September 1, 2007, all lever voting machines are to be replaced with the new systems authorized by ERMA.” This puts an end to the contention that NYS Election Law as currently written allows lever machines to be continued to use. This outcome was expected as Suffolk’s suit depended on a highly questionable interpretation of NYS Law. The Court found the ERMA language clear and unambiguous.
The Court left open the issue of whether counties can be compelled to order voting machines prior to the State Board of Elections issuing a list of certified machines.
As it currently stands, the New York State Legislature will need to revise the existing September 2007 deadline for new machines before the end of their session in June. Since it is clear that NYS will not have any machines certified by September, the continued use of lever machines is the most reasonable short term option.
It is expected that the Legislature will at a minimum change the current hard deadline to a more flexible form which allows use of the levers for a few more years. Whether the Legislature will consider changing the regulation completely and allow continued use of lever machines indefinitely remains to be seen, although it’s clear that such a move would be supported by the majority of New York State voters.
-Bo Lipari

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