Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, July 8, 2004 8:27 pm

Judge rules voter-verified paper-ballot requirement is constitutional

Filed under: Black-box voting — Lex @ 8:27 pm

A federal district judge has ruled in favor of California’s new paper-trail reform in electronic voting:

Los Angeles – A federal judge ruled [Wednesday] that California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley’s requirements for additional security on electronic voting machines do not violate federal or state law. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, California Voter Foundation,, and Voters Unite! submitted a friend-of-the-court brief and a sur-reply in support of Secretary Shelley. The case is Benavidez v. Shelley.”This decision is a landmark,” said [Electronic Frontier Foundation] Legal Director Cindy Cohn. “The court said – in clear, unambiguous terms – that requiring a paper trail for e-voting machines is consistent with the ‘obligation to assure the accuracy of election results.’ That’s an enormous victory.”

Judge [Florence-Marie] Cooper wrote that the “defendant’s decision to decertify touch-screen voting machines and to withhold further certification until he is satisfied that manufacturers have complied with specified conditions is a reasonable one. It is based on studies conducted and information gathered which convinced him that the voting public’s right to vote is not adequately protected by the systems currently in place.”

This ruling is particularly significant because Secretary Shelley’s e-voting reforms are setting the tone for the national debate on this issue. He was the first state election official to issue a blanket requirement for voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPAT) on e-voting machines, though Nevada later followed suit. On April 30, after further review and a scandal with embattled voting machine vendor Diebold Election Systems, Shelley decertified all of the state’s e-voting machines until additional safeguards could be implemented. His responsiveness to the growing evidence of problems in e-voting systems has led to pressure in states like Maryland and Ohio, where similar evidence has been downplayed.

The ruling certainly is consistent with the facts and the law as I understand them. But this issue has been so obfuscated by opponents of reform that it’s still a bit surprising to see someone actually doing the right thing.

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