Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Apparent NY SD 7 Winner Says Other Elections Should Have Been Questioned

Senator Jack Martins -- the apparent court-appointed winner of the contested race for State Senator in New York's 7th District -- wrote in a Jan. 10th Albany Times Union Op Ed that other election results in the state should have been questioned -- not just the results of his contest. On this point, we could not agree more.

Commenting on a recent Times Union editorial, Martins wrote: "It is disappointing and telling that the editorial focuses solely on the 7th Senate District and irresponsibly questions the results of this race and not the others, some of which took weeks to certify, including a Hudson Valley Assembly race that still hasn't been decided."

Martins, a Republican, also cited the 37th Senate District race, apparently won by an incumbent Democrat, in which Martins alleges that 54 ballot scanners broke down on Election Day and thousands of ballots were left uncounted in the machines for days. If he's correct, this would not only be a huge scanner failure rate, but also a violation of our election laws.

The media focused their attention on Martins' race because it was the last contest in the state that could have determined which party controls the Senate -- but it certainly wasn't the only one.

Martins points out that candidates in other close races "graciously conceded." Well, that's their problem!

No candidate should concede a race without strong evidence that he or she actually lost. Yet for many New York elections, neither our current voting system, nor our outdated legal system, provides such assurance.

It's true that outcomes of other races nearly as close as Martins' were not verified in any meaningful way -- yet neither was Senator Martins' contest. Democrats and Republicans alike gave away their constitutional rights by not litigating more effectively for verification of software-based vote tallies and by not legislating such requirements when they had the chance.

Some voting advocates too are to blame, since they insisted on replacing the lever voting system before laws needed to verify computerized election outcomes -- if indeed this is even possible -- were on the books. We are still waiting for such laws.

Martins' own county of Nassau has it right. Its pending bipartisan lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of computerized vote counting.

Columbia County also got it right when both election commissioners there agreed to do full hand counts of all contests before the 2010 elections.

Senator Patty Ritchie of the 48th District may also have it right. Her campaign filed suit, even when she was ahead in the count, claiming that “Upon information and belief, the machines employed in this election are computer operated optical scan machines which are prone to ‘hacking’ and other fraudulent attacks which can compromise the results of an election." To say nothing of the inadvertent programming errors or calibration glitches that have the same potential.

Let's get real. Apparent winners of elections will always claim the system was fair; apparent losers will claim otherwise, or just "graciously concede." But appearances can be deceiving. What seems “apparent” isn’t necessarily what the evidence would have revealed, had it been examined.

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