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This lawsuit filed in Travis County references e-voting machines manufactured by Hart Intercivic, but there are similar concerns about e-voting machines sold by all manufacturers, including Diebold, the source of Collin County's voting equipment. This is a re-print of Bill's comments about e-voting here in Collin County from a post in December '09, still relevant today:
Collin County has used Diebold's electronic voting machines for several years now, and not without incident. In the 2004 presidential election, a Diebold machine "locked-up" at one polling place, and election officials were unable to get the vote counts from the memory card. The votes were finally counted a week later, but only after the memory card was secretly sent to a Canadian lab for analysis.
Recently, ars technica reported, "Diebold machines have been responsible for dropping votes and derailing elections in several states, including Ohio and Alaska. These high-profile failures and repeated findings of low reliability and poor security during tests have compelled several states to ban Diebold voting machine products. The company has also been sued for a wide range of misconduct associated with its voting machine business, including fraud and even GPL infringement."
Nevertheless, in 2008 Collin County bought 410 more Diebold machines for use in future elections. The county now owns over 1,400 of these "AccuVote" machines.
A couple of years ago, Diebold, concerned about the unlimited legal liability that could ensue from machine errors in contested elections spun off the elections division after it was unable to find a buyer. Renamed Premier Elections Solutions, the old election division was then sold this year to rival Elections Systems and Software, Inc.
(from post "Reuters - Diebold sale challenged" - 12/20/09)
By Chuck Lindell/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
October 13, 2010
Alleging that Travis County's electronic voting machines are not secure or reliable, a group of voters Tuesday asked the Texas Supreme Court to let their lawsuit demanding changes go to trial.
The lawsuit, filed in 2006 but held up on procedural questions, seeks to force Travis County to provide voters with a paper copy of their just-cast ballot to review for accuracy. That ballot would then be submitted to create a record that can be checked in event of a recount or problem with a machine.
The current system, which tabulates all votes cast on a machine but does not provide individual printed ballots, cannot ensure accuracy or provide a backstop to a voting system that has had problems in the past, the voters say.
But on Tuesday, a lawyer for Secretary of State Hope Andrade urged the state's highest civil court to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that the voters cannot show they have been harmed by the voting machines and therefore have no standing to sue.
Alleging hypothetical scenarios in which votes might be lost because of tampering or malfunctions is not the solid proof of harm that the law requires, Kristofer Monson , an appellate lawyer with the attorney general's office, told the court during oral arguments.
"This is not a case about the right to vote," Monson said. "This is a case about the relative policy merits for two alternative mechanisms for performing recounts after someone has voted" — ballots printed on paper versus the computer tabulation of votes compiled by each machine.
In addition, Monson argued, the secretary of state properly followed the law in certifying in 1999 that the voting machines meet state standards for accuracy.
Travis County purchased its machines, made by Hart Intercivic Inc., in 2001.
Similar arguments failed to sway the District Court in Travis County or the 3rd Court of Appeals, which ruled 2-1 that the lawsuit could proceed to trial.
The state has asked the nine-member Supreme Court to reverse those rulings and dismiss the suit.
Timothy Herman, lawyer for the voters — who include 2006 Democratic attorney general candidate David Van Os and the Austin chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on behalf of its members — said a history of voting machine problems raises valid questions about the reliability of the ballot system in Travis County and elsewhere in Texas.
A paper record, he said, is necessary to protect voting rights guaranteed by state law and the Texas Constitution.
"The right to vote is meaningless unless you are also assured that the vote you cast is going to be counted properly," Herman said.
In briefs to the court, Herman recounted several past failures with electronic voting machines, including the loss of voting records in Collin County in 2004 and the inclusion of 100,000 uncast votes in Tarrant County in 2006.
"If a voter could demonstrate, as these voters have, that they are forced to use a machine which does not comply with the Election Code (requirement for accuracy), then they are in danger of being harmed," Herman said.
"We have right to plead it. All we want is to go back to the trial court and sort it out," he said.
Thirty-two states now require voter-verified paper ballots, according to the Verified Voting Foundation , a nonpartisan nonprofit reform group.
The Supreme Court has no deadline to rule but typically issues an opinion about 13 months after oral arguments. The case is Andrade v. NAACP of Austin, 09-0420.
Additional coverage on electronic voting on the Collin County Observer:
Reuters - Diebold sale challenged
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