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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

May, 2006

 

Huge Victory In Suit Against Diebold Voting Machines
By Don Deane

A precedent-making lawsuit against Secretary of State Bruce McPherson and 18 county voter registrars has prevailed as Marin, Placer, San Luis Obispo, Trinity, Tulare, Santa Barbara and Humboldt Counties have converted or have agreed to convert to paper ballots.
McPherson and 18 California county registrars are called on in the suit to ban the use and purchase of Diebold voting machines in the state of California.

The suit was filed by VoterAction.org on behalf of 25 California voter/plaintiffs, some in Bolinas. VoterAction lauded officials in the seven California counties for their commitments to use paper balloting rather than electronic voting systems.

The suit seeks to nullify Secretary of State Bruce McPherson's "conditional" certification authorizing purchase of the Diebold TSx electronic voting system which has a history of security issues, verifiability, and disability access problems.

VoterAction is the non-profit organization which brought the actions that led to both the decertification of Diebold in California in 2004 and, more recently, the ban on the purchase of Sequoia voting machines in New Mexico (which led to a new law in the state requiring a paper ballot for every vote cast.)

Diebold machines have repeatedly been linked to questionable vote outcomes across America.

"These seven counties are leading California "back to the future," by selecting verifiable, all paper balloting over electronic voting systems with significant security problems, and the risk of fraud and vote manipulation," said Lowell Finley, Esq., co-director of Voter Action, and co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the California Voters Lawsuit. "These counties appreciate the importance of transparency and verifiability in clean elections. Diebold TSx electronic voting machines contain technology that is easily hacked and nearly impossible to audit or recount, and is illegal under the California Elections Code".

"Voters concerned with the integrity of our elections are gaining tremendous traction here in California and across the country. It is encouraging to see that several counties in California are following a national trend towards making more secure, accessible, and economical purchasing decisions related to their voting equipment," said Holly Jacobson, co-director of Voter Action.

The suit was filed on March 21 of this year by a group of 24 California voters, including Dolores Huerta, social justice activist and co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America and Charles Fox of Bolinas.

The suit, trumpeted by the Washington Post on March 21 states the machines are not secure and can easily be adjusted to alter votes.

"The right to a secure vote, which is recorded and counted as intended, is a basic tenet of our democracy, and Californians deserve no less," said Dolores Huerta, social activist and Plaintiff in the California voters' lawsuit. "Diebold systems have failed in security tests and in communities around the country.

"In certifying the Diebold machines, the Secretary has sidestepped his duty to deny certification to voting systems that violate state and federal standards."

"A crisis is brewing in California when computerized slot machines used by gamblers in the state are more secure and auditable than the electronic voting systems used by California voters to decide the future direction of their government," said Lowell Finley counsel and co-director of Voter Action. "Expert testing has confirmed that the Diebold system contains "interpreted" code --programming that is vulnerable to malicious hacking, and prohibited by the California Elections Code. The Diebold touch screen voting system is a severe security risk, and does not accommodate all disabled voters as required by law."

"California voters have the right to vote and to have their votes counted correctly. The last thing we need is to start using voting machines that deny access to disabled voters and create an unacceptable risk of fraud and vote manipulation," said John Eichhorst, co-counsel for the voter plaintiffs, and a partner with Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin.

Charles Fox, resident of Bolinas, joined as plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against California's Secretary of State in the Diebold certification on Tuesday, March 21st, alongside famed labor organizer Dolores Huerta and 22 other voters of California. They are represented by another Bolinas resident, John Eichhorst of the SF law firm Howard Rice, in partnership with election law attorney Lowell Finley's VoterAction.org.

In late January, a group of election integrity activists including the Mainstreet Moms were at yet another hearing in Sacramento against the certification of blatantly inferior electronic voting machine technology. During the hearing, one of the more recalcitrant Registrars of Voters said of the machines purchasing process, "It's coming down to just a question of who you want to get sued by."

The lightbulb went off for Bolinas residents Jim Heddle, Mary Beth Brangan, and Megan Matson: "WE need to be suing them, now!"

A few days later, the law firm of Howard Rice with John Eichhorst had agreed to take a case against Diebold's certification pro bono. Then Lowell Finley of VoterAction.org, the team that succeeded in turning New Mexico around, agreed to lead the legal action.

The roots of the case against Diebold condemn touchscreen DRE (Direct Record Electronic) voting machines outright. These machines have been resoundingly condemned in one government report after another, from the General Accounting Office, to the Carter/Baker Commission, to the Conyers Report. Governors on both sides of the aisle have issued blistering attacks on touchscreen DREs for their utter lack of security or reliability, and as Republican Governor Ehrlich of Maryland said, for the "1000% increases in maintenance cost estimates" since contracts were signed with Diebold.

He joins Democratic Governor Richardson in committing to paper ballots optically scanned for their states. Finally, every computer security expert and state-commissioned security test has failed the machines, including recent tests conducted by the California Secretary of State himself. The general consensus among activisits and computer security experts alike is that at the end of the day, you need a paper ballot optically scanned or hand counted. No other system allows for meaningful audits or recounts, both of which are essential to restoring trust and sturdiness to our democracy.


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