Tuesday, March 21, 2006

New CA Lawsuit Against Diebold's Electronic Voting Machines

Today the nonprofit group Voter Action filed a lawsuit against California's Secretary of State Bruce McPherson as well as eighteen counties for certifying and using voting equipment made by Diebold. The lead attorney on the lawsuit is Lowell Finley, who previously brought a successful case against Diebold on behalf of Bev Harris and Jim March of Black Box Voting. That case was joined by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Alameda County, and settled out of court for $2.6 million. (See my November 11, 2004 blog entry for details on the settlement).

Given Mr. Finley's track record, it's worthwhile to pay attention to his claims, which include that the equipment in question, the Diebold TSX electronic voting machine (with voter-verified paper audit trail printer) does not adequately meet the needs of disabled voters, nor does it meet the current, 2002 federal voting system standards, which prohibit the use of interpreted code in voting equipment software.

Other compelling claims include one that the voter-verified paper record produced by the the TSx cannot fulfill the demands of California's one percent manual count law, which is designed to publicly verify the accuracy of software vote counts, and another that counties are circumventing the one percent rule by omitting absentee and early-voting ballots in the manual count. Voter Action has provided the legal documents filed today on its web site. See this AP story by David Kravets for more details. Excerpts are featured below.


The group Voter Action filed the lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court alleging that Diebold's touchscreen voting machines lack adequate security and aren't easily used by the disabled.

Machines made by Diebold Election Systems, based in Allen, Texas, are slated to be used in as many as 18 of California's 52 counties this November.

"We can't have trustworthy elections with Diebold's touch-screen voting machines," said Lowell Finley, an attorney representing about a dozen voters. "They are easily hacked."

Last month, California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson gave conditional approval to use the disputed voting machine - the AccuVote-TSX.

The Secretary of State's office said in December that the Diebold machines failed one of the 10 criteria he established for voting machines because the source coding, or computer language, on their memory cards was not reviewed by independent investigators.

But McPherson authorized the machines as long as counties take security precautions, including keeping a written log of who has control of the machines' memory cards.

McPherson spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns said the devices "are safe for use."

Diebold spokesman David Bear said there are 50,000 of the disputed models used in Utah, Mississippi, California and "a spattering of other states."

"The system has been thoroughly tested," Bear said.

Diebold is one of four electronic voting companies McPherson has allowed to operate in California.

State Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee, said, "The secretary of state gave Diebold the green light to sell its machines in this state even though its machines don't meet the standards we put into law."

No court date has been set for the lawsuit.

The suit names the counties of Alameda, Fresno, Humbolt, Kern, Lassen, Los Angeles, Marin, Mendocino, Modoc, Placer, Plumas, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Siskiyou, Trinity and Tulare.

The case is Holder v. McPherson, 06-506171.

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