Our campaign this year across New York State centered in Albany and
aimed to influence the state legislation for the implementation of
the Help America Vote Act. Our success in that campaign resulted in
the final version of the legislation (The Election Reform and Modernization
Act of 2005), which unlike earlier bills, allows for the best choice
of the voting system: hand-marked paper ballots and precinct based
optical scan ballot counting (PBOS), supplemented with a ballot marking
device for the disabled.
However, this system was not adopted as a standard for the whole state.
Furthermore, since the choice between PBOS and electronic touchscreen/pushbutton
voting machines (DREs) was delegated to county election commissioners).
We now must mount vigorous campaigns in each individual county.
This contents of this page can
be downloaded here for printing.
Following is a summary outline of advice drawn from NYVV experiences
with county campaigns. Click on the links below to go directly to the
detail for the topic.
I. Reaching the Public - public pressure
on county officials is essential.
- Start a Petition Drive in Your
We are launching a statewide petition drive, getting
as many signatures as possible as quickly as possible from people
who want the PBOS voting system rather than DREs. The petition is
addressed to county officials, but copies will be sent to other officials
- Get press and media coverage
Work with regional weeklies, dailies, and radio programs.
II. Reaching County Officials
- County Election Commissioners
The state legislation gives these appointed election officials, representatives
of the two major political parties, the power of decision about
our voting system. We must tell them we do not want DREs, since
most of them favor electronic voting systems. We need to tell them
that the primary criteria for judging a voting system are reliability,
accuracy, transparency, security, accessibility, and verifiability;
the PBOS system is judged superior on these values by experts in
computer science as well as citizens groups like the League of
Women Voters. Convenience to Boards of Election is secondary to
the values essential to democracy.
- County Legislators
Since elected county legislators are responsible for
the county's fiscal health, they should see the evidence that the
PBOS system is more cost effective in terms of initial acquisition
as well as long term maintenance, storage, and replacement. They
also should be reminded of the importance of the primary criteria
listed in the previous paragraph for the health of our democracy.
III. Overall recommendations
- Tips about networking and organization.
I. Reaching the Public
A. Start a Petition Drive in Your
- Name one person as central to this drive in the county. This person
should keep track of who is passing petitions and make sure they
are gathered up periodically and that copies are made. The
petition can be downloaded here.
- Determine periodically the most effective way to deliver a quantity
of completed petitions to the Election Commissioners and County Legislature
. For example, you might give the originals to the commissioners,
and leave two copies with the clerk of the legislature.
- Send hard copies of your completed petitions to New Yorkers for
Verified Voting. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to
find out where to send the petitions. We will be sending petitions
from all over New York State to the State Bo ard of Elections, legislators,
and other officials .
- When you approach people with the petition have with you both a flyer
with the pictures of components of the system and a one-pager
setting up the problems with DREs in comparison.
- Carry petitions for the PBOS system to various celebrations, fairs,
and farmer's markets. Usually one has to apply in advance to do so.
Non-partisan public service organizations will often not be charged
- Make name tags to identify yourself when you work in public spaces.
- Be conscious that many people now are suspicious of any technology
when it comes to voting. Use language like “ballot counter” at least
as often as “optical scanner.” Stress that the scanner only counts the
votes; the hand-marked paper ballots are the direct record of the
voters' choices. Sometimes mention that they are familiar with scanners
from grocery check-outs; they are familiar with the ballots from
tests and lottery tickets, etc.
- Usually you will need to approach people actively, saying something
like, “Do you know that we must replace the lever voting machines
by 2006? We are here to explain the most reliable system the county
could choose.” Have in hand a flyer
with pictures of the components of the PBOS system . Nothing
works so well as to point to the pictures, and talk through how sensible
the PBOS system is, ending with the fact that “the ballot you yourself
have marked drops down from the ballot counter into a locked ballot
box and is there for any recounts and the required audits.” Download
a sample script here.
- Have additional literature available for those who want fuller
explanations of the system. There are one and two page summary analyses
of the “Advantages of the PBOS” as well as the longer “ Advantages
of Paper Ballot/Precinct Based Optical Scan Voting Systems …”on
the website. Also popular are other downloadable documents on the
website, e.g. “ Miami-Dade,” “ Refuting
Sequoia ,” etc. Especially if you talk with election workers
or persons worried about costs, you may want to have a few copies
of the NYVV Critique of the Election
Commissioners Association Report and/or the documents on “ Comparing
Annual Costs ” and “ Paper
Ballot Costs and Printing .” Some like to have copies of materials
from additional sources, such as the Senate
Rules Committee Testimony of David L. Dill, (Prof. of Computer
Science, Stanford University and Founder of Verified
Voting Foundation , June 21, 2005.
- When setting up in farmer's markets and county fairs, etc., try
the Be a Patriot sign , mounted
on colored poster board and standing on a card table Consider buying
something like a Red, White and Blue bunting to tie around the front
of the table. Additional large hand-made signs might say something
like: Save Our Democracy! New York Voters, Sign Our Petition!
- At major events (fairs, musicfests, etc.) have petitions ready
for those from neighboring counties as well as for your own.
- Encourage people to carry the petition to others in ways that work
best for them. Standing in the heat and humidity at fairs and farmers'
markets is hard for some folks. They might, however, simply go from
door to door to their neighbors.
- Remember to take care of yourselves. Working
in the sun and humidity requires precautions . Even if you
still are getting signatures, know when it simply is time to go
B. Get press and media coverage
- Make sure to notify the press (regional weeklies as well as dailies)
of what you are doing. Of course, write letters to the editor and
op-ed pieces. Use EVERY opportunity to get press. But keep in mind
that the press will not write about something unless there is an
event or occasion to cover.
- Consider buying advertising space in the regional papers for special
events, thus encouraging the papers to give you additional press.
Of course, evening or weekend events get the best turn out.
- Try to establish positive relations with the editors of your regional
papers. Send them significant press releases that you receive from
NYVV. Try to convince them of the superiority of the PBOS system,
so that you might get an editorial endorsement.
- Have copies of documents you prepare for meetings ready to give
any members of the press who cover the event.
- Get on local radio programs, especially popular call-in shows.
II. Reaching County officials
- Since the election commissioners now have the power of decision,
use every tactic possible to make sure they know that citizens who
favor the PBOS system will stay actively involved in the process
and will continue to hold them responsible for their decisions. Meet
with them, write to them, and call them.
- When passing petitions, make
sure that you distribute the contact information for election commissioners
and encourage citizens to call or write them as well as sign the
petition for PBOS.
- Remind people that election commissioners are political appointees.
Their terms of office will have to be renewed. Keep in mind that
the legislature appoints the election commissioners on the basis
of the recommendations of the county Republican and Democratic committees.
Use the leverage of county Republican and Democratic committees to
remind them that the commissioners are responsible to voters.
- Try to discover whether your commissioners have gone on record
as supportive of the DREs. Have they supported a certain DRE before
certification takes place? If they have, ask for any written communications
about this, under the Freedom of Information Act. Consider asking
under the Freedom of Information Act specifically for the correspondence
between your Bo ard of Elections and the HAVA Conference Committee,
especially during Spring 2005. Try a Google search for any public
statements made by your election commissioners.
- Keep in mind that statewide and regionally, election commissioners
have been and are strongly urged to purchase DREs both by their colleagues
in other counties and by vendors. Study the recent Election
Commissioners of New York Report on the two voting systems. Note
how biased against PBOS it is by using the NYVV “Critique
and Corrections to the June 2005 Election Commissioners' Association
Report on Voting Technology.”
- Keep in mind that your election commissioners may have advised
poll workers in ways that encourage them just to wait, since the
Bo ard of Elections will keep them updated. Election workers may
be those most resistant to conversations about signing the petition.
Influential organizations like the Election Center ( www.ElectionCenter.org )
have voting machine vendors as members along with election workers;
they have encouraged unquestioning trust in DRE technology and the
good will of the vendors.
- Make sure that your commissioners notify you of any voting machine
demonstrations. Insist that a spokesperson for NYVV be invited to
speak, since the vendors devalue and misrepresent the PBOS system.
- Press your election commissioners to hold public meetings at which
they will discuss the criteria they will employ in choosing a voting
system with the public.
B. County Legislators
- Try to identify at least one or two county legislators who are
concerned about the choice of a voting system. Spend time with them,
in person or on the phone/email/letters. Share the various materials
prepared by NYVV. If you can convert even one legislator, s/he might
advise you about timetables and arrangements with regard to implementation
of the state legislation and/or bring constructive resolutions to
the sessions dealing with the voting machine issue. You often can
find friendly legislators who are concerned about democracy—or at
least about their fiscal responsibilities. The legislators have inside
lines for communicating with their colleagues.
- Be aware that the legislators tend to preserve a positive working
relationship with the election commissioners, if for no other reason,
because they depend on them for fair management of their own elections.
Also keep in mind that most county legislators are currently up for
re-election. If legislators are facing a challenge to their incumbency,
they will pay attention to citizens, petitions, etc.
- Getting important documents printed to distribute to the legislators
and commissioners is worth the cost. You will find that some do not
use e-mail-- or give it little attention. In your later communications,
refer back to articles you already gave them, so that they know you
expect them to pay attention to what you send to them.
- Copy letters and information to both your election commissioners
and legislators in ways that make sure they know others know they
have received your communications.
- Remind county legislators that, even if New York State gave the
final decision to the election commissioners, the legislature is
responsible for the budget as well as for long range maintenance,
transportation, and storage. Make sure they get the relevant
documents from the NYVV website.
- Find out how to get on the agenda for your county legislature's
monthly meeting. Can you get five minutes by having your own town's
representative bring you forward? Consider presenting completed petitions
at such a meeting.
- Ask to appear before crucial committees that supervise the Bo ard
of Elections and/or control the agenda.
- Encourage people to write or call their own town representatives
to the legislature, since constituents will have the most influence.
- Ask the legislature to hold meetings open to the public about the
choice of a voting system.
- Ask the legislature to develop resolutions that support the certification
of equipment for both systems so that counties have a real choice.
III. Overall recommendations
- Consider organizing loosely, but effectively. It may help to have
one or two persons understood as central coordinators of the county
campaign. These persons should regularly consult with others in the
core group as well as more widely. E-mail as well as telephone consultation
seems to work best in our busy lives. Have your county coordinator
contact New Yorkers for Verified Voting (email us at email@example.com)
to keep us posted of progress and status in your county.
- Connect with all political parties. Even if you disagree with them
on other issues, democracy on this issue asks us to act out our identity
as nonpartisan. If possible, put in the forefront of your campaign
some people who are less identifiable than others in terms of partisan
- Network with other people through the NYVV website ( www.nyvv.org ).
Many of us have resources already prepared (types of letters, documents,
etc.) that might save you time.
- Whenever possible connect with the NY State League of Women Voters,
getting them to join you on certain efforts. Find out where there
are chapters in your county. Contact the officers. The League also
is campaigning for PBOS.
- There will be costs for campaigning. Advertising, printing, gas,
etc. Be prepared for this and willing to help with the costs; but
also begin to imagine ways to appeal for support.
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