Monday, July 12, 2004

Score another victory for safe elections

San Jose Mercury News editorial, July 9, 2004


A federal judge has quelled a rebellion by four county registrars of voters who tried to dispute the obvious: Their voting machines couldn't be trusted to count straight.

Judge Florence-Marie Cooper re-affirmed Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's right to do what he considers necessary to ensure accurate state elections.

Officials in San Bernardino, Riverside, Plumas and Kern counties had sued to overturn Shelley's decision to ban one model of Diebold Election System's touch-screen machine and to demand that counties using other electronic voting machines take extra security and accuracy measures. Those safeguards include offering voters in November a paper ballot as an alternative.

The counties were joined in the suit by advocates for the disabled who understandably are enamored with touch-screens' ease of use. Unfortunately, they also have bought the voting companies' line that their systems were infallible.

Shelley had abundant evidence to the contrary. Along with precautions for November, he ordered that all touch-screen machines provide a paper trail by 2006 to ensure voters can verify their electronic choices.

Cooper dismissed all of the counties' arguments, and said Shelley acted within his authority. Her decision should embolden election officials nationwide to follow Shelley's lead.

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