Voters Call For New Election, Get Hearing For Machine Source Code - InformationWeek

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12/18/2006
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Voters Call For New Election, Get Hearing For Machine Source Code

Sarasota County voters claim electronic voting machines malfunctioned in tight Nov. 7 congressional race

Florida voters who claim a problem with electronic voting machines resulted in up to 18,000 missing votes will get a hearing in court Tuesday.

A judge will consider whether the Sarasota County voters, who believe electronic voting machines failed to record up to 18,000 votes, can access the machines and their source code to proceed with a lawsuit filed in November. The plaintiffs seek a new election for Florida's 110th Congressional District.

ES&S, which supplied the machines, maintains the accuracy of the machines. State election officials have also said they believe the machines worked properly, both before and after they tested and audited them because of complaints.

Fewer than 400 votes decided the result of the election to fill former Rep. Katherine Harris' seat. Republican Vern Buchanan declared victory, but Democrat Christine Jennings decided to sue. Jennings and voters -- represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), People for the American Way Foundation, and Voter Action -- claim that 18,000 people in the district could not have cast ballots for all races except the congressional race. They also claim voters reported problems on Election Day, saying the screens failed to show their choice in the race.

"This is an under-vote rate of more than 16 percent, compared to an under-vote rate of 2.5 percent in the paper absentee ballots and 1 percent in the U.S. Senate race on the same electronic ballot," EFF explained in a prepared statement.

A spokesman for ES&S said the system provided voters with a summary screen and an opportunity to go back and change votes before finalizing selections. If a voter had difficulty, he or she could contact a poll worker and use a different machine, he said during an interview.

Plaintiffs in the case argue that other counties in the same congressional district used different machines and recorded far more votes in that race. They charge Florida officials with improperly certifying the machines and allege that the county's election officials did not properly investigate or report complaints about equipment, software or layout problems with the iVotronic voting machines.

The federal government is expected to implement new regulations for e-voting to address fears about reliability.

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