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What happened this week in PA and what it means for PA voters

By       Message Marian Schneider     Permalink
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The ruling on Tuesday of this week is just one round in a case that was filed more than 2 years ago.  In August of 2006, 25 Pennsylvania voters from diverse parts of the state filed suit against the Secretary of the Commonwealth, alleging that DRE voting systems do not comply with the Pennsylvania Election Code and because of their unreliability and inaccuracy violate the Pennsylvania Constitution.  Immediately after the filing, the Secretary sought to have the suit dismissed, and filed a motion to do so.  After briefing and oral argument, the trial court (known as the Commonwealth Court) issued a 4-3 decision denying the Secretary’s motion.  In its opinion, the Commonwealth Court noted the fundamental importance of the right to vote and the right of every Pennsylvania voter  to have her vote counted accurately and securely.

After this interim decision,  known as an  “interlocutory order” which means that the order did not dispose of the case, the Secretary petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the ruling.  Ordinarily, parties can only appeal rulings at the end of the case when the decision is “final.”  The parties submitted briefs on the issue of whether the Supreme Court should hear the appeal.  Briefing was over in May 2007 and the trial court action was stayed pending the Supreme Court’s decision.  The case has been “stuck” in the Supreme Court since May 2007. The parties could not move forward until the Supreme Court made a decision.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court decided not to hear the appeal of the Secretary.  What this means is that the case re-activates in the trial court and proceeds normally.  The parties will have an opportunity to obtain information from each other known as “discovery.”  They will take depositions and seek documents.  When that is finished, there will either be a trial or perhaps motions for the court to make a decision if the facts are not disputed. 

The decision is significant because it clears the way for evidence to be presented in a public forum on these voting systems.  There have been very few cases in which evidence of the unreliability and inaccuracy of these systems has actually been produced.  Because 50 out Pennsylvania 67 counties use the machines challenged in the lawsuit, the case has enormous implication for Pennsylvania voters.  The allegations in the complaint relate specifically to Pennsylvania law and its requirements for electronic voting systems.  Plaintiffs allege that the Secretary certified machines that don’t comply with Pennsylvania law and that its certification process is inadequate to detect flaws in these systems.  If the court agrees with plaintiffs, DREs may not be able to be used i in Pennsylvania. 
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Marian K. Schneider of Berwyn, PA has 21 years experience practicing law. She currently practices employment law on behalf of employees and litigates commercial disputes. In 2004, she trained more than 200 pollwatchers and was a member of the (more...)

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What happened this week in PA and what it means for PA voters