Levers, HAVA, and “Compliance”

Kudos to Brad Friedman for making a good call on a subtle point in his comment on my posting about Bo Lipari‘s coverage of the NY State testing of voting systems. Brad objects to my statement that lever machines are not compliant with the Help Amercia Vote Act (HAVA).

And rightly so! The bad news about the adjective “HAVA compliant” is that people can and do disagree about the interpretation of that Act of Congress. The good news is that the noun “HAVA compliance” is well defined by facts on the ground, if not in the Act itself.

Those facts on the ground are composed of each state’s implementation of its HAVA compliance plan, under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice. The DoJ has for years been working with states, including the lever-machine states of NY and CT, on each state’s HAVA compliance plan. Those plans in NY include the use of machine-counted paper ballots, some hand-marked, and some from ballot marking devices that provide enhanced access for voters who are unable or unwilling to mark paper ballots by hand. Those plans do not include the continued of lever machines.

So we can say that lever machines are not part of HAVA-compliance (noun) in NY or CT.

Further, I got the impression, from talking to folks involved in HAVA compliance program implementations, that there was no chance of a compliance program being approved if it was based on the continued use of lever machines. If true, that might well based on what Brad would consider a misinterpretation of HAVA.

Would it be possible for a state to have an acceptable HAVA compliance plan that included lever machines? Perhaps a plan that included electronic DREs for enhanced access, lever machines (which are mechanical direct-record election devices), and tools for combining the results from both into an auditable election result? Possibly, but likely we’ll never know, as the last few HAVA-compliance program engines pull into the station at the end of ride.