Judge Tosses Fla. E-Voting Paper Trail Suit

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Tue Oct 26 2004 - 10:49:23 CDT

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  Judge Tosses Fla. E-Voting Paper Trail Suit

  By Adrian Sainz

    MIAMI -- Florida does not need to create a
paper record for touch-screen voting machines in
case recounts are needed in tight races, a
federal judge ruled Monday, upholding the state's
emergency rule that set standards for e-voting
recounts.

   Touch-screen machines "provide sufficient
safeguards" of constitutional rights by warning
voters when they have not cast votes in
individual races and allowing them to make a
final review of their ballots, U.S. District
Judge James Cohn ruled.

   Rep. Robert Wexler, a Democrat, had sought
either a paper record for manual recounts in
close elections like the contentious 2000
presidential race or an order switching voters in
15 counties from touch-screens to optically
scanned paper ballots by 2006. He wanted a way to
help determine voter intent when no votes were
recorded, known as "undervotes."

   The judge found there was no constitutional
violation in a touch-screen recount rule issued
by the state Oct. 15. That rule replaced one
thrown out in August by a state judge.

   The current requirement is to determine "voter
choice," which the state maintains is whatever is
recorded on a touch-screen machine when a voter
presses the final button.

   Wexler said he planned an appeal to the 11th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

   Cohn, who heard three days of testimony last
week, concluded that "the preferential method of
casting a ballot" would include a paper printout
allowing voters to make sure their selections are
correct, but he said he was limited to
determining "whether the current procedures and
standards comport with equal protection."

   Wexler called that a partial victory but said
he disagrees with the judge's conclusion that the
voting machines meet the requirement in state law
for manual recounts.

   He said he believes the judge was reluctant to
make "drastic changes" in voting systems since
early voting already is under way.

   "Gov. (Jeb) Bush successfully ran the clock out
on the ability to improve the election process
for 2004," Wexler said.

   Wexler's attorney, Jeff Liggio, argued the
machines have no way to deal with malfunctions or
distinguish between voter mistakes and
intentional decisions to skip ballot items. The
judge said the question of malfunctions was a
state rather than a federal issue.

   The office of Secretary of State Glenda Hood
said the machines have a successful track record
since they were introduced to the state in 2002,
following the fallout from confusion over the
punch-card ballots used in the last presidential
election. Bush won the state by 537 votes.

   "Florida voters should have complete confidence
in the voter systems we're using, and for
Congressman Wexler to try to erode the voter
confidence or put doubt in the voter's mind does
a real disservice to the voters of Florida," Hood
spokeswoman Jenny Nash said.

   Ron Labasky, an attorney for county election
chiefs, claimed in court that Wexler was just
trying to find a way to "squeeze one more vote
out" and "regress" to the confusion of 2000.
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2004 The Washington Post Company

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Received on Mon Nov 1 15:28:47 2004

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