More on NYS and HAVA

As one of our voter data experts, and being that New York is my home state, this article in the NYT is particularly… exciting? No. Disturbing? eh… maybe. Shocking? Not at all. As I said, NY is my home state! And having worked for the State Senate there is nothing surprising about the gridlock that has put the state in the position of being sued by the feds. I have posted about this before. Here are some excerpts from the recent article and some thoughts

Other states — including Connecticut, Pennsylvania, California and Ohio — have struggled to carry out some provisions of the federal law, the Help America Vote Act. But election-reform advocates and the Justice Department say New York ranks dead last when it comes to complying with it.

At least we are doing–err not doing it–with distinction!
Maybe the feds should have acknowledged how hard a problem this is and called together some of the best and brightest thinkers on voting and voting technology and come up with some broad guidelines that gave states a little more direction, like: Systems must produce a voter verifiable receipt and paper record! and systems must be open source! isn’t our democracy more important that proprietary systems?

The Justice Department noted in a news release on Wednesday that “states had nearly three years to comply with the provisions enforced under today’s lawsuit” and said that New York “was not close to compliance” with the federal law. No other state has been sued for failing to comply with the law, but Justice Department officials say that they are having discussions with some other states about their voting plans.

Albany is like a college dorm room in so many ways, but here it is obvious that procrastination rules the day!

Election officials say that they plan to model their statewide voter database — which was supposed to be set up by Jan. 1 — on a system used by the State of Washington.

I mentioned the Washington State database back at the end of December. I think that the problem with the concept of state wide databases is that the driving force behind creating them is not to better serve the public, but to reduce fraud.

It is exciting to hear that NYS was or is considering using a system in use in another state. Frankly, someone should come up with an open source voter data schema and then others should build voter database applications that use it.

At CivicActions we have been using our experiences in NY and California to create just such a data standard. It is totally open and AGPL and we are willing to share it with any organization, public or private, that is interested.

If there is an open process, and open source alternatives that meet the needs of a broad range of states, then everyone will really benefit. These open data formats could propel voting technology forward.

The lawsuit notes that the state has yet to publish the rules governing how the database should be compiled. Nor has it begun seeking contractors to create the list, or established the technical requirements for the list.

Ok, this is a huge issue. Right now, NYS Board of Elections registration/enrollement data diverges from County data by as much as 10%! The merge/purge schedules of the state BOE and the County BOEs must not be in synch. When will the counties upload data to the state? what if a voter moves from NYC to Westchester, and back in a single year changing their voter registration each time they move? How will that be handled in the state database? Will the DB be compiled anually? monthly? quarterly? after each election? How will voter history be recorded? What I mean is: will the database record where I voted when I voted?

I think that perhaps I should call up the state Board of Elections!