Dear JFA Readers:

The US Department of Justice is threatening to sue the state
New York over delays in bringing new voting machines to
the state and complying with other requirements of the Help
America Vote Act. Wan Kim, assistant attorney general in the
Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in a letter to the
state Board of Elections and state Attorney General Eliot
Spitzer last week said that the state was lagging behind
every other state in complying with HAVA requirements. Thus
New York has received $220 million in federal funds to
help comply with HAVA requirements. Below is an article from
Brad Williams, executive director of the
New York State
Independent Living Council, regarding this issue.

Lack of HAVA Compliance in
New York State 

Election Reform Must Include State's Disabled
First published:
Sunday, January 15, 2006

Governor Pataki's recent State of the State address discussed a
wide range of topics, but the issue of election reform was
conspicuously absent. This is because
New York has been in
violation of the full implementation deadline of the federal
Help America Vote Act since Jan. 1.
New Yorkers with disabilities have the most to lose because of
this. They still are being denied full access to voting
machines, the ballot and polling places after more than 200
years in the history of our state and country.

At issue is HAVA's mandatory requirement to remove barriers and
increase access so that citizens can vote "privately and
independently," as further supported by Title II of the federal
Americans with Disability Act of 1990 and the 14th Amendment to
the U.S. Constitution.

Modest estimates project that the state won't be able to meet
this requirement until 2008. This is both unacceptable and
another dismal example of how dysfunctional
New York state
government has become.

Other groups have expressed additional concerns about HAVA-
related issues, including the types of voting machines that the
state Board of Elections will certify for use, and the
requirement for a paper trail for each voter. These issues must
still be resolved.

Since our state government has yet to uphold its moral and
legal obligations to fully implement HAVA, I suggest that the
state should demonstrate an interim act of good faith by
immediately establishing a new program for New Yorkers with

The "Fundamental Right" state income tax break would give
qualified enrollees a two-fifths break on their state income
tax. Only a person enrolled in the program could take advantage
of the tax break.

To qualify for the tax break, a person would have to:

* Be a resident of and registered voter in
New York state.

* Have a disability, as defined under the federal Americans
  with Disabilities Act.

* Sign a sworn statement to verify that he or she cannot vote
  privately or independently at his or her designated polling

In return, participants in the program would agree not to file
and pursue legal action related to their voting rights against
New York State during the time that they are enrolled and take
the tax break.

The tax break would end the year after the U.S. Department of
Justice verifies that New Yorkers with disabilities can vote
privately and independently, as specified under HAVA.

It must be understood that this program is an interim measure,
not meant to replace or prolong providing New Yorkers with
disabilities their fundamental rights to vote privately and
independently as American citizens. The money the state saves
from avoiding extensive litigation costs, fines, and awards
would more than pay for the program.

In his State of the State address, the governor called for
several new breaks, while stating, "We've led the nation in
cutting taxes -- 81 cuts to 19 different state taxes."

He capped his speech by talking about how the new
Freedom Tower
Manhattan will "transcend great challenges," similar to the
way the dreams and aspirations of our forefathers led to
"limitless hope, opportunity and freedom."

New Yorkers with disabilities have been waiting over two
centuries to gain full access to their voting rights, which
directly impacts their hopes, opportunities and freedoms. Time
will tell if the governor extends his penchant for tax cuts to
New Yorkers with disabilities, consistent with our forefathers'
belief in "no taxation without representation."