Fwd: PFAWF and coalition allies file suit asking for revote in FL CD-13

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Tue Nov 21 2006 - 11:41:40 CST

>Subject: PFAWF and coalition allies file suit asking for revote in FL CD-13
>Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2006 12:34:09 -0500
>From: "RG Neas"
>FYI - announcement of lawsuit and statement by PFAWF Florida Legal
>Counsel, Reggie Mitchell
>November 21, 2006
>Drew Courtney or Nick Berning (PFAWF) -- 202-467-4999
>Holly Jacobson (Voter Action) -- 206-723-1941
>Brandon Hensler (ACLU) -- 786-363-2722
>Sarasota Voters File Lawsuit for Revote in Congressional Race
>Voters from Sarasota County today filed suit in state court in
>Tallahassee asking for a revote in Florida's 13th congressional
>district. The suit alleges that thousands of citizens were
>disenfranchised when massive undervotes plagued the tight
>Congressional race between Democrat Christine Jennings and
>Republican Vern Buchanan. In a high-profile battle over former Rep.
>Katherine Harris' seat, the result was decided by 363 votes, yet
>over 18,000 ballots cast on Sarasota County's e-voting machines
>registered no vote in the race, an exceptional anomaly in the State.
>The lawsuit is being filed by a group of Sarasota County voters,
>both Republican and Democratic. The voters are represented by
>election advocacy groups, including Voter Action, People For the
>American Way Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the
>American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida.
>"Election officials have shown remarkable disregard for the ability
>of voters to actually cast a ballot," said Ralph Neas, President of
>People For the American Way Foundation. "Casting a vote is one of
>our most fundamental rights, and that right was violated for
>thousands of Sarasota County voters. At this point holding a new
>election is the only appropriate option." Neas also called for
>statewide election reform, saying, "Florida can no longer afford to
>certify election results that no one trusts."
>ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon noted: "For years,
>Gov. Jeb Bush's administration, including various Secretaries of
>State, has dismissed reports of problems with electronic voting
>machines and resisted mandating audits and other methods of ensuring
>that electronic voting machines are capable of performing a
>genuine re-count. We even had to go to court to overturn an
>Administrative Rule issued by the Secretary of State banning
>recounts in DRE Counties. Now we have mass disenfranchisement and a
>crisis in voter confidence in the integrity of the elections. It is
>likely that the faulty machines, not the voters, decided this
>Voter Action, a national nonpartisan advocacy group focused on
>election integrity has been leading legal efforts nationally to
>address the problems with electronic voting.
>"The problems in Sarasota are not unique," said election law
>attorney Lowell Finley, co-director of the organization. "Across
>the country we have seen how these systems lose large numbers of
>votes, switch voters' selections on the screen, cause high undervote
>rates, add votes or even count votes backwards. Our democracy is too
>important to continue using unreliable and untrustworthy voting
>equipment. The people of Sarasota are standing up for their most
>fundamental right no matter their political affiliation. This is
>about protecting democracy."
>The suit is being filed under provisions of Florida law that permit
>voters to contest an election based on misconduct by election
>officials or on evidence that legal votes were rejected in
>sufficient numbers to place in doubt the outcome of the election.
>The voters' lawsuit cites misconduct of election officials,
>including the failure of Sarasota Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent
>to adequately investigate, identify or report equipment
>malfunctions, software malfunctions or ballot layout errors in the
>ES&S iVotronic touch screen voting machines, even after she received
>numerous complaints about the machines from voters and pollworkers
>during the two week period of early voting.
>The lawsuit also alleges that the iVotronic voting machines were
>improperly certified by the Florida Secretary of State in disregard
>of early warnings concerning the reliability and trustworthiness of
>e-voting systems made by ES&S systems.
>On Monday, the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission certified
>Vern Buchanan as the winner of the Congressional District 13 race by
>363 votes, despite the fact that electronic ballots cast by more
>than 18,000 people in Sarasota County showed no vote for either
>candidate in a high profile congressional race. This is an
>undervote rate of more than 16%, compared to an undervote rate of
>2.5% in the paper absentee ballots and 1% in the U.S. Senate race on
>the same electronic ballot.
>At a public hearing hosted last Thursday by PFAWF, ACLU of Florida,
>Voter Action, Common Cause, and Fair Vote Florida, numerous voters
>in Sarasota County reported that when the summary screen appeared on
>the ES&S voting machines they were assigned to use, their vote had
>not been recorded. Some voters were able to go back and record a
>vote, but others believe they were never given a meaningful
>opportunity to cast a vote in that race.
>The lawsuit notes that absentee ballots, which are cast on paper
>instead of the computerized touch screen voting machine, did not
>reflect a similar lack of votes in the congressional race in
>Sarasota, and that other counties in the same congressional
>district-which used different voting equipment-did not experience
>the same massive undercount in the congressional race.
>"The voters of the 13th Congressional District deserve to know for
>sure who they elected," said Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff
>Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Voters should not have to take the word
>of vendors and election officials when serious problems emerge that
>call into question the accuracy of the results. This suit is
>designed to help voters find out what really happened."
>Remarks of Reggie Mitchell, Florida Legal Counsel for People For the
>American Way Foundation.
>The election for Florida's 13th Congressional District was certified
>by the State Canvassing Board yesterday. And by certifying that
>election, the board disenfranchised more that 18,000 Sarasota
>voters. As it stands now, no one can seriously believe that the
>results that were certified are more than a rough guess about who
>ought to have won. Voters deserve more that that. They deserve to
>know that every effort was made to hold a fair election, and our
>lawsuit seeks to give them that in Sarasota County.
>This district's congressional election was one of the highest
>profile races in the state. It's completely unreasonable to believe
>that 18,000 people who made the effort to get out and vote - one out
>of every seven voters who used these machines in Sarasota County -
>simply didn't care enough to vote in this race. These undervotes
>didn't appear in absentee ballots or in counties that used different
>voting machines. It's clear that the fault lies with the election
>machines and the elections officials who oversaw them.
>Today we are filing suit in state court asking that there be a
>revote in Sarasota County for the 13th Congressional District. In a
>situation in which elections officials so drastically mismanaged an
>election, this is the only acceptable solution. This is a
>non-partisan lawsuit. Our groups are not aligned with any candidate
>or party. Indeed, we're being joined by voters from both parties
>who are concerned that many votes were not counted. This is not
>about politics -- this is about democracy.
>Florida can no longer afford to be known as a state in which the
>results of elections have more to do with the decisions of election
>officials than with the wishes of voters. We hope that Sarasota
>County voters will ultimately be able to have confidence in the
>results, and that this debacle will encourage efforts to truly
>reform our state's election system. No voter should ever have to
>cast a ballot that isn't accurately counted. Un-accountable,
>un-verifiable, un-auditable voting must end. We look forward to
>making that vision a reality in all of Florida's counties.

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Received on Thu Nov 30 23:17:10 2006

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