[E-voting] Court Recognizes Pennsylvania Voters' Right to Reliable, Secure Voting Machines

Catherine Ansbro cansbro at eircom.net
Fri Apr 13 09:56:29 IST 2007


Posted at 
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*Court Recognizes Pennsylvania Voters' Right to Reliable, Secure Voting 
Machines*

'Great Victory' in Challenge to Use of Systems in 56 Counties Statewide



PHILADELPHIA, April 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A Pennsylvania court
held late today that voters have a right under the commonweath's
constitution to reliable and secure voting systems and can challenge the
use of electronic voting machines "that provide no way for Electors to know
whether their votes will be recognized" through voter verification or
independent audit.

The ruling by the Commonweath Court allows the continuation of a suit
filed last year by 26 individual Pennsylvania voters against the Secretary
of State that challenged the certification of Direct Electronic Voting
systems (DREs) used in 56 counties across the state.

"This is a great victory for Pennsylvania voters," said Mary Kohart, a
partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, one of the lawyers representing the
group of voters. The case, which ultimately seeks the decertification of
the DREs, was also brought by the Public Interest Law Center of
Philadelphia (PILCOP) and Chester County attorney Marian K. Schneider.

The 4-3 decision was sharply critical of the Pennsylvania Secretary of
State's actions in certifying the DREs. Judge Rochelle Friedman, who
authored the majority opinion, noted the certification was the result of
"deficient examination criteria" which "do not approximate those that are
customary in the information technology industry for systems that require a
high level of security."
"Because Electors have no way of knowing whether their votes will be
honestly counted by DREs that are not reliable or secure and that provide
no means for vote verification or vote audit," the voters sufficiently
raised a violation of the Pennsylvania constitution in their suit, the
court declared.

"Across the country, both state legislatures and Congress are realizing
that DRE voting systems cannot be trusted," said Michael Churchill, a
lawyer with PILCOP. "More and more states are requiring optical scan paper
ballots that voters mark directly or through a ballot-marking device."

Procedurally, the court's decision overruled the Secretary of State's
16 preliminary objections against the voter's August 2006 complaint. The
objections claimed that the voters had no legal right to proceed with their
case and no legal right to obtain the relief that they sought.

In the voters' complaint, they alleged that the DREs failed during
elections in Pennsylvania and in other states by losing votes, registering
votes for one candidate when the voter was attempting to vote for another
candidate; causing high "undervote" rates; failing to register votes when
the ballot contained only one question; counting votes twice; failing to
print "zero tapes" to demonstrate that no lawful votes were stored on the
machine prior to the election; printing "zero tapes" after votes had been
cases; reporting phantom votes and other irregularities.

Schneider noted that last fall's elections across the country showed
the unreliability of the machines. "The 2006 elections demonstrated that
DREs repeatedly failed by breaking down, switching votes, losing votes and
not providing the security necessary for a functional democracy," she said.

Holly Jacobson, co-director at Voter Action, noted that good
alternatives exist to the unreliable electronic voting machines: "Paper
balloting, with ballot marking devices for the disabled, is a more secure
and accountable option, which is why states like Michigan and New Mexico
and others, in addition to hundreds of counties around the country,
switched in time for last November's elections."
Kohart noted that in light of today's court ruling so clearly
establishing the law, "We hope that the Secretary will think about a quick
settlement of this case."

Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, a full-service national law firm
established in 1849, recently announced its combination with the more than
170 lawyers at Chicago-based Gardner Carton & Douglas. The merger,
effective in January 2007, created a firm of more than 630 lawyers in 12
offices nationwide. For more information, please visit 
http://www.drinkerbiddle.com.


SOURCE Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

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