State Senate Passes Hava Legislation

John J. Flanagan

April 06, 2005

The New York State Senate today approved legislation, sponsored by State Senator John J. Flanagan (R,C-East Northport), to implement the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002. The Senate will act on three bills to implement a statewide voter registration list, establish an administrative complaint procedure and provide for the 5 percent state match which will trigger an additional $153 million of federal HAVA funding.

"This legislation establishes a couple of firsts for the people of New York State. Voters, for the first time, who feel there has been a violation of HAVA, will be able to file a formal complaint with the State Board of Elections. In addition, a statewide voter registration list will be established for the first time," said Senator Flanagan, Chairman of the Senate Elections Committee. "The Senate has also taken the lead in passing legislation to satisfy the 5 percent matching fund requirement to trigger $153 million in Title III money under HAVA."

"I applaud Senator Flanagan and the other members of the HAVA conference committee, for negotiating agreements on the statewide voter registration list and the complaint procedure," Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said. "However, there are still several important election reforms that need to be enacted. A lot of progress has been made on HAVA and I’m confident we can reach agreement on the outstanding issues."

Senator Bruno said the joint legislative conference committee on HAVA will be reconvened to continue working towards a compromise agreement on the outstanding issues.

The Senate will act today on the following measures that were agreed to with the Assembly and introduced in both houses:

Statewide Voter Registration List (S. 3604)

The statewide list will be the official record of registration for each voter. Local boards of elections will transmit to the State Board of Elections a copy of the voter registration records in electronic format which will be combined into a single integrated list.

"This bill creates a statewide voter registration list for the first time in New York State," said Senator Flanagan. "It will prevent voters from being registered in Manhattan and in the Hamptons or Albany and the Adirondacks, thus ensuring every person gets only one vote."

"This legislation, combined with voter verification and voter identification legislation will be the linchpin of what Congress has envisioned as central to prevent voter fraud in future elections," said Senator Flanagan. "This legislation recognizes that illegal votes dilute the value of legally cast votes -- a kind of disenfranchisement no less serious than not being able to cast a ballot."

When the federal government was deciding upon the implementation of HAVA, Senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT), one of the principal architects of HAVA, said on the Senate floor, "This requirement is the single greatest deterrent to election fraud, whether by unscrupulous poll workers or officials, voters, or outside individuals and organizations. The ability to capture every eligible voter in one centrally managed database with requirements for privacy and security of the information will help ensure the integrity of registration lists and ensure both the accuracy and authenticity of those lists."

In addition, his counterpart Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-MO), the prime drafter of the statewide voter registration list sections described HAVA as a way to make " easier to vote and tougher to cheat." He cited a recent report which reviewed voter file information across state lines, and showed nearly 700,000 people were registered in more than one state and over 3,000 double-voted in the 2000 election.

Administrative Complaint Procedure (S.3517)

Under this legislation, any person who believes that there is a violation of the Help America Vote Act may file a complaint. The complaint can be made in person, by telephone or in writing to the local Board or State Board of Elections. Upon a written request a hearing will be conducted by members of the staff of the State Board of Elections who will issue a final determination within ninety days of the date of the complaint. The bill in no way impairs or supersedes the right of an aggrieved party to seek a judicial remedy.

"This legislation is significant because, for the first time, voters will be able to file a formal HAVA complaint with the State Board of Elections," said Senator Flanagan. "Secondly, this is a formal requirement in HAVA that, in conjunction with a 5 percent state match, triggers New York’s receipt of second round funds appropriated by Congress for the states pursuant to HAVA."

In addition to the agreed-upon bills, the Senate will act on the following legislation:

5 Percent Matching Fund (S.3686)

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 places certain conditions on the various states for receipt of funds under the Act. One of those conditions is that states appropriate an amount equal to 5 percent of the total amount spent by the federal government, which for New York has been calculated to be $7.7 million.

Flanagan said that the Assembly, in the eleventh hour of budget negotiations, broke the deal which was agreed to at the Budget conference committee table which would have appropriated the funds necessary to implement HAVA and therefore the funding was not included in the 2005-06 budget.

"The Assembly’s failure to appropriate these funds in the state budget has jeopardized New York State’s receipt of $153 million in federal money for the purpose of purchasing new voting machines to bring New York State in compliance with HAVA’s requirement concerning new voting machines. Without this federal money, New York State will still have to comply with the mandates established by HAVA, but it will have to do it by spending its own state-appropriated money," said Senator Flanagan. "The Senate has taken the lead and will not walk away from federal money that will help New York State comply with HAVA. Therefore, the Assembly’s inaction will potentially cost New York’s hundreds of millions of dollars."

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 is Congress’s deliberate, thoughtful and overwhelmingly bipartisan reaction to the electoral problems exposed by the presidential election of 2000. This landmark legislation provides for a national expenditure of up to $3.9 billion for administrative improvements, including new voter registration system.

The bills were sent to the Assembly.