September 28, 2004 6:38 AM PDT

Florida e-voting lawsuit can proceed, court says

Just 36 days before Election Day, a federal appeals court has breathed new life into a lawsuit challenging Florida's use of electronic voting machines that lack paper trails.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday reinstated a lawsuit that Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., and other Florida officials filed in March. They argue that it's unconstitutional for 15 Florida counties to have touch-screen voting systems without paper trails because no manual recount is possible.

A district judge in Fort Lauderdale had tossed out the e-voting case on procedural grounds, saying it could result in undue federal interference with state sovereignty. While this week's decision allows the case to proceed before the district court, it's not clear what impact it may have on the procedures for the Nov. 2 election.

Wexler's lawsuit claims that it is unconstitutional for Florida to have two election standards: 52 counties have the means to conduct a manual recount if necessary, but the 15 touch-screen voting counties do not. The lawsuit was filed against election officials in counties such as Palm Beach and Indian River.

In an article published in the Washington Post on Monday, former President Jimmy Carter warned that Florida's election system was rife with Republican officials who could permit a repeat of the controversial 2000 election.

Carter wrote: "Modern technology is already in use that makes electronic voting possible, with accurate and almost immediate tabulation and with paper ballot printouts so all voters can have confidence in the integrity of the process. There is no reason these proven techniques, used overseas and in some U.S. states, could not be used in Florida."

Also this week, the world's oldest professional society of computer scientists cautioned of the dangers of electronic voting machines, recommending that they not be used in elections unless they provide a paper trail.

 

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