July 7, 2004 1:55 PM PDT

Court refuses to lift California e-voting restrictions

The California secretary of state and proponents of paper audit trails for voting machines garnered a judicial win Tuesday when a U.S. District Court judge refused to strike down the state's decertification of e-voting systems in 14 counties.

The ruling freezes a bid by four California counties and the American Association of People with Disabilities to avoid having to find alternatives to their electronic voting systems come the November presidential elections. Those groups had asked for a temporary restraining order against Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's decision, which would prevent them from using their e-voting machines.

Shelley's "decision to decertify touch-screen voting machines and to withhold further certification until he is satisfied that manufacturers and counties have complied with specific conditions is a reasonable one," Judge Florence-Marie Cooper stated in the ruling.

Nationwide, as irregularities in the voting machines' software and hardware continue to surface, state governments and voter groups are lashing out at the makers of the devices, saying the companies have not followed through on federal certification. The battle, which has left county election officials scrambling for answers, threatens confusion at the polls, which would leave voters as the ultimate victims.

Fourteen California counties, and about 43 percent of the state's voters, used some form of direct recording electronic, or DRE, voting machines in the March 2004 elections. Yet, following testimony in April that found that at least one voting-machine maker, Diebold Election Systems, had not obtained federal certification for its systems despite assuring that it would, the secretary of state banned that maker's systems and decertified other makers' machines.

"The court has found that the actions we have taken to ensure the security and integrity of the November election are appropriate--that they are, in fact, necessary," Shelley said in a statement. "Now is the time to leave the litigation and the acrimony behind, implement the added security measures we have called for, and run a secure, efficient election in November."

In June, Shelley released voting-machine guidelines for counties and manufacturers. To date, the secretary of state has come to an agreement with five counties--Merced, Orange, Santa Clara, Shasta and Tehema--and recertified those districts' voting machines. Among the requirements, the counties must agree to give voters the option of paper ballots, make the source code to the machine's software available for analysis and embark on a comprehensive poll-worker training program.

However, the four counties represented in the lawsuit--Kern, Plumas, Riverside and San Bernardino--have not yet come to an agreement with the state.

"It is very important that the voters in those counties enjoy the same security protections," said Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which had submitted its own filing supporting the secretary of state's arguments. Three other voting groups--VerifiedVoting.org, California Voter Foundation and Voters Unite--co-sponsored the friend-of-the-court brief.

John McDermott, lead attorney for the four California counties, would not immediately comment on the ruling, but Cohn said she believed it likely that the counties and AAPD will appeal the judgment, despite ongoing talks to defuse the situation.

"I don't think an appeal of this will help the discussion very much," Cohn said.

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Paper trail Mandatory to keep elections legit.
I will not buy groceries without an itemized receipt. I will not get my jeep repaired without a full estimate and an itemized bill. Why on earth would I give my vote away to an electronic machine that can probably be hacked, has not been tested in national elections, is not certified by any government and to any elected person that tells me not to worry, my vote is safe. Three cheers and a well done for the Appeals Court and Ca. Sec. of State Shelly. The integrity of the American electorial process is the most sacred item we as citizens pocess.
Posted by (1 comment )
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Paper trails(as in story) are worthless except to make people feel better.
Electronic machines have been used in national elections for years, in addition to counting local elections.

The fact is a paper trail that all the ludities are talking about is a reciept given to the voter not a paper log that is kept secure. It does not guarrentee any protection, they are never going to recall thoses paper receipts to check the count. All it does provide is a piece of a dead tree that can used to verify that a person correctly sold thier vote.
If people want to add/remove votes for a person they are all ready doing it, witness 2000 election where party members were found with empty ballots and voting boxes in thier cars. So now instead they have to crack the system, so what.

As for training; the training has to be used. Alot of the problem with the hanging chads were that people had training but did not use it, in this case empting the boxes where the chads were suppose to fall into.

All this decision did was say that yes the person appointed by the state can set requirements and decertify places that do not meet the requirements.
Posted by Voice of Sanity (4 comments )
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No Unverified Voting Machines!
Excellent-- it's good to see a court make a decision with
some common sense.

It's absolutely critical that the source code of any voting
machine be available for scrutiny-- this is the absolute
minimum acceptable standards. It's not acceptable to
use software where the public cannot verify that there
are no hidden biases or trap doors to fix the election;
the temptations are just too high when the people know
that they are acting in secrecy.
Posted by (2 comments )
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