NEW YORK—The safety net for reinstating lever voting machines in New York City elections has officially been cut.
When the New York State Legislature passed a law allowing lever voting machines this election, opponents had one final avenue to continue their fight. Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) required the state to get permission from the Department of Justice for any changes in voting procedure.
Advocates have submitted arguments against the use of the antiquated machines, citing many of the same issues submitted to the state, such as limited disability access and small type for foreign languages.
That law was struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States on Tuesday, leaving the door open for the continued use of lever machines in local elections as long as the state continues to pass legislation allowing the archaic machines.
The New York State law allowing lever machines, which was passed in mid-June, will only take affect for the 2013 local elections, but if the New York City Board of Elections feels—as they did this year—they will be unable to handle a runoff, the State could pass another bill allowing the lever machines in the future. The Help America Vote Act will continue to ban lever machines in Federal elections.
The VRA provided checks and balances for state and local entities to ensure all municipalities are following federal law on polling places, educational materials, and machines, among other laws aimed at protecting language and race minorities.
Municipalities will still be required to follow all federal laws, however, any changes made do not have to be checked by the Department of Justice.
“This is a disappointing day for voting rights advocates and people who care about ensuring equality of treatment at the polling place,” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director at the Brennan Center for Justice.
Norden said the language in the decision left an invite for Congress to adopt a new formula which could include New York City, but that would likely not happen before this election season.
“It will be incumbent on private citizens and private groups to look for potential negative impacts on racial and language minorities [in the election],” Nordon said.