ALBANY, N.Y. — A federal judge has approved New York’s latest plan for bringing the state into compliance with federal voting laws. New York is years behind deadlines to comply with the Help America Vote Act, which was enacted after the contested 2000 presidential elections to ensure better accuracy and access for the disabled. U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe ordered the state Board of Elections on Wednesday to follow through with the plans it gave him to meet the requirements of the law. If the state acts on the agreed timeline, voting machines accessible to the disabled will be available in every polling place around the state by this fall’s federal elections. The state would then follow up by replacing all pull-lever machines by the fall 2009 state elections.
Sharpe, who is overseeing a 2006 U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against the state, has expressed frustration with the state’s “paralysis” on the issue until now. He had considered appointing a special master to step in, and at one point threatened to jail members of the elections board on contempt charges. The elections board must send a progress report to Sharpe every Friday to verify it has met each deadline. “It means we have a lot of work to do in a relatively short period of time,” board spokesman Lee Daghlian said. “But we have agreed to this plan with Justice. As a matter of fact, we’ve already started some of these things in the timeline.” Straying from the schedule even slightly could cause Sharpe to intervene again. “This court retains jurisdiction to take any and all other actions, including specifically the appointment of a special master or other entity as necessary to ensure that the obligations imposed upon the defendants by HAVA and by this court’s orders are carried out,” Sharpe wrote in his order.