Albany County questions cost of HAVA

As a December compliance deadline nears, Albany County elections officials have come up their own version of what the HAVA Help America Vote Act acronym stands for, but they aren't sharing what it is.

Lately, and especially after each election, officials from the county down to municipal officers are using the phrases "joke, poorly thought out and waste of money," when they speak of the 2002 federal legislation, which was meant to streamline the election process and prevent the confusion that surrounded the ballots in some states during the 2000 presidential election.

Other than federal and state mandates, the only thing county election officials have seen as a result of the legislation is one new machine and thousands in extra costs each election.

Federal courts are expected on Thursday, Dec. 20, to either extend the state its third waiver on compliance deadlines or crack the whip, said Albany County Board of Elections Democratic Commissioner Mathew Clyne.

If the latter happens, the county will have to move quickly to supply additional handicap-accessible voting machines, come up with the money and space to store replacement electronic voting machines and work out all the kinks since taking over elections in all county municipalities last year.

"Albany is kind of like in a Twilight Zone. As far as Upstate counties, we are one of the largest. These timelines (to come into compliance by 2008) are completely unreal," said Clyne.

For towns, it has only over-complicated a process that, for the most part, has run smoothly in New York. It also has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars looming in municipal budgets in county charge backs soon to take affect. However, the county has eased the burden on its municipalities with a plan to move away from per capita and assessed value charge-back formulas to a simpler cost-of-doing-elections formula, which could result in huge savings for some towns. Colonie will see a $140,000 reduction in expenses paid to the county as Albany looks to recoup the costs for running the 2006 elections.

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