Today Judge Patricia A.Y. Cowett issued her final decision in the case County of San Diego vs. Bowen, which basically restated the tentative one she issued last week. In her ruling, Judge Cowett wrote:
"Petitioners have argued that the SOS does not have the authority to issue conditions confirming the accuracy of the elections. Petitioners contend the 10% manual tally requirement is beyond the scope of any power expressly authorized by the Legislature. However, the SOS has been delegated the express duty, by the Legislature, to insure voting machines operate effectively as set forth in various Election Codes..."
At the end of her ruling, Judge Cowett noted that her conclusion is consistent with the American Association of People with Disabilities v. Shelley case (which was joined with the Benavidez v. Shelley case noted in the last post to this blog). Her ruling includes an excerpt from that prior decision:
"Plaintiffs' argument that the Secretary's Directives are in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA") is not well taken. The Directives were issued, as previously observed, under the authority of the Elections Code, which authorizes the Secretary, at 19222, to withdraw approval of previously certified voting systems. As explained above, in connection with Plaintiffs' sixth claim, the Secretary was not adopting a new policy, the execution of which would require the adoption and approval of regulations in compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act. He was simply carrying out his responsibilities under laws and regulations already in force."
This ruling is a significant victory for Secretary of State Debra Bowen. We'll have to see if the counties that sued her will appeal the decision, but hopefully they will instead decide to comply with the new post-election auditing requirements.