Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Federal Court Rules in Favor of Paper Trail Reform in E-Voting

Judge Florence-Marie Cooper's decision, Benavidez v. Shelley

Federal judge Florence-Marie Cooper ruled yesterday that California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's requirements for additional security on electronic voting machines do not violate federal or state law.

Her decision is a victory for paper trail proponents, the e-voting reform movement and the voters of California.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, California Voter Foundation,, and Voters Unite! submitted a friend-of-the-court brief and a sur-reply in support of Secretary Shelley. The case is Benavidez v. Shelley.

Judge Cooper wrote that the "defendant's decision to decertify touch-screen voting machines and to withhold further certification until he is satisfied that manufacturers have complied with specified conditions is a reasonable one. It is based on studies conducted and information gathered which convinced him that the voting public's right to vote is not adequately protected by the systems currently in place."

The suit was brought by disability rights advocates and four California counties (Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern and Plumas) that oppose Secretary Shelley's voter verified paper trail requirement and April 30th decertification orders.

In her decision, Judge Cooper wrote:

“Nothing in the Americans with Disabilities Act or its Regulations reflects an intention on the part of Congress to require secret, independent voting.”

“The interest in the Secretary of State in fulfilling his statutory duties and the public interest in accurate, verifiable vote counts outweigh the Plaintiffs’ interest in an unassisted, private vote. “

Judge Cooper also dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim that Secretary Shelley overstepped his authority. Her ruling cites several California statutes authorizing the Secretary to approve and regulate voting systems, and giving the Secretary the right to withdraw approval of a voting system if it is deemed by the Secretary to be defective, obsolete, or otherwise unacceptable.

In her decision, Judge Cooper said the Secretary is “therefore, not only authorized, but expressly directed to withdraw his approval of any voting system found to be defective or unacceptable.”

This landmark ruling, which takes into account California laws as well as federal laws such as the ADA and HAVA, will have a reverberating impact on states across the country. This decision also reinforces the leadership California's secretary of state is bringing to this critical issue.

No comments:

Post a Comment