Governor Cuomo Signs Bill to Ensure Orderly Administration of Village Elections

Albany, NY (February 28, 2011)Governor Cuomo has signed into law a measure that will allow villages that administer their own village elections to use lever voting machines, rather than the new optical scan voting systems, until the end of 2012. This law was needed to ensure that these villages can transition to the new voting systems in a fair and orderly manner.

In July 2010, New York enacted legislation implementing certain provisions of the federal Help America Vote Act ("HAVA"). The New York State law required that all elections, including village elections, must be conducted using the new optically scanned ballots. However, some villages that administer their own elections have faced several major obstacles to shifting over to the new technology.

Many of the village elections affected this year by the new requirement will be held on March 15, 2011, and certain villages have not had enough time to budget for, lease, program, and test the new optical scanners. In addition, the current costs of using the new voting systems pose significant challenges, particularly for small villages.

"We must ensure that there are orderly elections at all levels of government," Governor Cuomo said. "This measure makes sure that villages can properly carry out their local elections and gives them the extra time they need to transition to the new voting system."

The law reflects a narrowly tailored solution to immediate and significant problems faced by villages. Specifically, the law provides only a temporary exemption to Election Law § 15-114. The law does not apply to the administration of any federal elections covered by HAVA or to village elections administered by a county board of elections. In August 2010, an exemption allowing the use of lever machines was granted to school districts for their elections. The legislation was sponsored by Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel and Senator Jack Martins.

New York State Conference of Mayors Executive Director Peter Baynes said, "Governor Cuomo has demonstrated his commitment to efficiency in local government by approving legislation that allows villages to temporarily continue to use traditional lever style voting machines in village elections, similar to the authority granted to school districts. Enactment of this law will give villages the time they need to shift from past practices while ensuring that upcoming elections will be not be adversely affected. The New York State Conference of Mayors thanks the Governor for recognizing that these changes make sense for village voters as well as village taxpayers."