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Press release/statement

STATEMENT: Groups Release Public Comments to NYS BOE Seeking Stronger Database Regulations that will Protect NYS Voters

New York, NY — The organizations listed below respectfully submitted public comments today seeking improvements in draft New York State Database Regulations.

The introduction of a computerized, statewide voter registration system can be a milestone for New York State voters. In election after election, otherwise eligible voters have been turned away from the polls because of the failure of county boards of elections to timely process voter registration applications and produce accurate voter rolls for Election Day. Implementation of a new voter registration system that fully complies with state and federal law promises to correct for many of these perennial problems.

The groups noted that the draft New York State Database Regulations published by the New York State Board of Elections on June 21, 2006 accomplish much. Yet they are also deficient in several important respects.

First, they fail to:

1) define a standard for matching information in different databases that would prevent unnecessary burdens on eligible voters;

2) incorporate the innovations adopted by the New York State Legislature regarding the use of various state databases for producing accurate voter rolls while fully accommodating the voting rights of homeless individuals and residents with felony convictions, and young voters as provided for under state and federal law; &

3) accommodate appropriate rules for processing voter registration forms to prevent the rejection of timely voter registration applications. These comments were filed as advocates hailed a decision in federal court in Seattle this week that blocked enforcement of a Washington state law that would have kept eligible voters off the registration rolls because of typos and minor errors. The court decision in the case, Washington Association of Churches, et al. v. Reed (case no. C06-0726RSM), addressed a "matching" process with problems similar to the difficulties that this coalition is attempting to address. Although the consequences of a failed "match" are very different in New York than they were in Washington, there are still valuable lessons to be drawn from Washington's experience about the danger of an overly inflexible "matching" process.

The New York State Citizens' Coalition on HAVA Implementation is an ad hoc coalition of civic, labor and civil rights organizations. Specific endorsers of these comments include: Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Citizens Union, Common Cause/New York, Demos: A Network for Ideas and Action, New Immigrant Community Empowerment, National Nonpartisan Voter Education Campaign, League of Women Voters of Westchester, New York Immigration Coalition, New York Public Interest Research Group, National Voting Rights Institute, New York Statewide Senior Action Council, New Yorkers for Verified Voting, Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, American Association of Jews from the Former USSR, New York Chapter - NY Chapter, and Women's City Club of New York.