Common Cause/NY Calls on Gov. Cuomo to Veto Lever Machine Legislation

For Immediate Release:


June 13, 2013

Susan Lerner, 212-691-6421

Common Cause/NY Calls on Gov. Cuomo to Veto Lever Machine Legislation

Legislation would take NYC elections back to the future, causing widespread dysfunction

Common Cause/NY today strongly urged the Legislature and Governor Cuomo to protect the integrity of the votes cast by New Yorkers by using paper ballots for the City primary and any run-off election this fall. The watchdog group warned that bringing back the antiquated, cumbersome, and unverifiable lever machines was no solution to the problem created by the Legislature’s refusal to set the primary in June and would just make a bad situation worse.

With the Assembly’s passage of A7832 yesterday, each house of the Legislature has passed its own bill to allow the use of the lever machines for the New York City primary and run-off. The Senate passed its bill, S4088-B, in May. Of the two bills, A7832 is the lesser of the two evils. However, The Governor should veto any final version of either bill allowing the use of lever machines which comes to his desk for approval.

Advocates, elected officials and the Board of Elections itself have been warning for at least a year that the City primary in September, followed two weeks later by any required run-off election, would make it very difficult for the Board to administer the runoff. Both bills would move the run-off date back one week, which is certainly preferable to the current schedule. Nevertheless, even with this change, the schedule set by the Legislature continues to make it nearly impossible for members of the armed forces serving overseas to exercise their right to vote in the run-off.

“It would be both a waste of tax payer money and an epic failure of government if after all our efforts to bring New York City’s elections into the 21st century we reverted back to the 19th century for fear of progress. The new technology is perfectly up to the task of administering the runoff as experts have acknowledged. It is the Board’s continued unwillingness to get up to speed with modern technology which is truly at issue. Common Cause/NY urges the two houses of the Legislature to drop the lever machines out of these two bills and agree to move the run-off date back. Common Cause/NY urges the Governor to keep our elections moving forward, and veto legislation that reinstitutes use of the lever machines,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.

Lever machines are inadequate to handle a runoff election for two key reasons:

They have 28,000 moving parts and break down constantly, with replacement parts limited, making them unreliable

They cannot be audited which is a violation of the spirit of Help America Vote Act (HAVA)

Common Cause has previously stood with Citizens Union, NYPIRG, the League of Women Voters, AALDEF, and CIDNY to oppose any move to allow New York City to use lever voting machines for all non-federal elections, including the upcoming primary, run-off and general elections this fall.


Move the run-off date from September 24th to October 1st, providing more time to print any run-off ballots and avoiding a conflict with the Jewish holiday Sukkot and.

Use the optical scanning machines: the Board’s own contingency plans announced in February include using a streamlined procedure to set up and test the optical scanning equipment that reads and counts the paper ballots. The method would be preferable to the lever machines.

Adjust the recount procedure to accommodate the short time between the primary and any run-off using high speed scanners to sort problematic ballots for examination instead of a manual recount of every ballot.