Evaluating disability-accessible voting machines

Host:  Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL) and I'm the host Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to the program, Todd. 

Guest:  Always good to be here. 

Host:  You're here because you're our expert on all things political as well as in public access to things and New York State is undergoing a re-evaluation of accessible voting machines. To bring our listeners up to date on what the Help America Vote Act requires of the local polling place. 

Guest:  Well, the Help America Vote Act was passed in 2002, after the debacle with the 2000 election, and it requires that states have ways, accessible ways, to cast your ballot.

The most important thing citizens do next to pay taxes is to vote. So, if you're in New York, we were one of the last states to comply with the Help America Vote Act and the machines that we bought then to become compliant are the machines that we're still using today. In most of our Upstate counties, you'll see a Dominion Image Cast machine. However, in Erie County and in some of the counties in New York City and Long Island, you'll see a Automark machine from ES&S that's actually the name of another voting company. Those machines are now getting on to 15-17 years old. Some of them are reaching the end of their useful life. 

So, New York has kind of decided that before the next federal election, they want to make sure that counties make additional purchasing decisions to update voting because the Help America Vote Act requires voting being updated on a regular periodic basis. 

Host:  Alright. And we already know that Dominion and ES&S are two companies that have machines already in use. Are there some other companies kind of in the background that aren't quite on the starting blocks yet? 

Guest:  There are, and the reason why I won't necessarily name them in this segment is because they haven't been certified by New York State yet. When that situation changes, of course we'll always come back to the listeners, but the big systems that we're going to be looking at are probably from Dominion and ES&S. 

You may over the next few months before the next federal election, be asked to come and look at a machine and try one out and tell advocates what you think of them, or how easy or hard it was to navigate or cast about with it. 

Host:  And in case some listeners say, Dominion voting, where have I heard that before? And say in the news because of a lawsuit against a certain news organization that was trying to blame them. 

Guest:  Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes. 

Host:  For the outcome of the last presidential election. 

Guest:  That would be true, and I think they settled for I think they settled before they went to trial for hundreds of millions of dollars in a defamation case, right. Let's be very clear. The state of New York would not certify a voting machine if somebody was going to be able to hack it. Or otherwise manipulate it to not show the true voters' intent that's listed on the ballot. Remember, Avo was meant to reduce the problem with Chad's little things that you that that are left out when you pop holes in ballots in Florida. 

Anything hanging chad, the missing chad so we would not be selecting voting machines that could be easily hacked and disability advocates statewide are very clear on both the accessibility of being able to independently cast your ballot and keeping your ballot safe and secure from tampering. 

Host:  Todd, would you believe we're out of time. I'm sure people will have questions. How can they reach you? 

Guest:  They can always give my office a call at 716-836-0822. My extension is 101 or they can email me at tvaarwerk@wnyil.org 

Host:  Todd, we're glad that you were our watchdog to make sure that people have accessibility in their voting process. And thanks for being with us. 

Guest:  You're welcome. 

Host:  You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest has been Todd Vaarwerk, chief advocate policy officer of WNYIL, and I've been your host Ernie Churchwell.