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Reply #6: GO VIRGINIA! [View All]

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BPfaffenberger Donating Member (1 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-01-10 07:52 PM
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I love Virginia Martin's letter and her courage -- and I am grateful for her insight. I've been working on the history of lever voting machines and New York election law for some years now, and I find it illuminating to think of New York's elections as a system -- that is, a collection of components that have been adapted to each other so they work smoothly and achieve their purpose.

Lever voting machines represent an embodiment of the wisdom acquired in New York's century-long struggle to deal with unbelievably sweeping currents of social change (industrialization,urbanization, immigration) and the onset of world-class corruption. Virginia knows that, in every election, the procedures, laws, people, and machinery constitute a collectivity -- a system -- that bring the hard-won principles of that century of struggle to life: bipartisan observation of every process that could be corrupted, and above all else, a "get it right on election night" philosophy that refrains from projecting ambiguous election data into the volatile post-election environment.

Conceptualized as a system, there's no doubt in my mind that New York meets HAVA's requirements.

But there's more. It is clear from the plain text of HAVA that Congress intended HAVA's voting system requirements to be read very loosely. For example, one such requirement is that voters ought to be able to change their votes before finalizing them, which lever machines of course can do. But HAVA provides an exemption for centrally located optical scan systems, which do NOT provide voters an opportunity to remedy an error. This exemption says that the state just needs to educate voters about the need to be careful about overvoting.

Any reasonable person should be able to see, in light of the hugely fuzzy way that HAVA interprets its own requirements, that there's plenty of room for Virginia's interpretation.

--Bryan Pfaffenberger, Charlottesville, VA
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