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Voters' Group Declares Victory in Electronic Voting Case

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CONTACT: Holly Jacobson, (206) 723-1941 or (206) 769-7185

John Eichhorst, (415) 434-1600

DATE: August 29, 2007

FOR RELEASE: Immediate


Plaintiffs Applaud California Secretary of State’s Recent Action on Voting Systems

Case Challenging The Use of Diebold Electronic Voting Machines Is Withdrawn

SACRAMENTO, CA – A group of California voters who filed suit challenging former Secretary of State Bruce McPherson’s 2006 certification of Diebold electronic voting machines for use in California announced today that they were withdrawing their court case following Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s recent decision to decertify the Diebold system and to only allow limited use of that system under strict manual recount conditions. The voter plaintiffs said that Secretary Bowen’s action constituted a vindication of the concerns raised in their lawsuit concerning vulnerabilities and inadequacies of the Diebold machines, and that Secretary Bowen’s actions answered nearly all of the concerns outlined in their original complaint filed last year.

“We thank Secretary Bowen for her leadership and her courage,” said Dolores Huerta, one of the voter plaintiffs in the case. “Her decision is a victory for democracy in California. It marks a major step forward in protecting the integrity of our electoral process.”

In March 2006, a group of 24 California voters, including Huerta, social justice activist and co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, filed a lawsuit in state court against then-Secretary of State Bruce McPherson and various county registrars to halt the use or purchase of the Diebold TSx electronic voting system. The lawsuit alleged that the Diebold TSx voting machines did not meet requirements of California law with regard to security from tampering and vote manipulation, accessibility to voters with certain disabilities, and auditability, and that the machines were unsuitable and unsafe for use in California elections.

On August 3, 2007, Secretary Bowen withdrew the certification of the Diebold and other electronic voting systems for use in California, except under limited circumstances. Her decision followed a comprehensive review of voting systems in the state showing that the Diebold machines, among others, were plagued by serious security problems that threatened the integrity of the vote in California.

Secretary Bowen permitted conditional reapproval of the machines for use only if strict conditions are met. Under her new order, California counties will be able to use only one machine per precinct to meet federal requirements for accessible balloting for voters with disabilities, and the counties will be able to use such machines for early voting. Secretary Bowen further required that counties using this technology under such conditions conduct a 100% manual recount of the paper records produced by the machines.

“Secretary Bowen should be commended for moving the state of California and the nation in the right direction on this critical question facing the security of our elections today,” said Charles Fox, another voter plaintiff in the case. “While the machines currently employed for the stated purpose of greater accessibility fall far short of providing the required accessibility under federal law for voters with disabilities, we look forward to working with the Secretary of State's office in the ongoing effort to ensure meaningful access for all of California's voters."

Attorneys John Eichhorst, Michael Gallo, Jason Takenouchi, and D’Lonra Ellis from the law firm of Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin in San Francisco served as counsel for the plaintiffs in the case. The lawsuit was filed with the support of Voter Action, a non-profit legal advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the integrity of US elections. Voter Action’s co-founder, Lowell Finley, served as co-counsel for the plaintiffs until January 2007, when he assumed the position of Deputy Secretary of State for Voting Systems Technology and Policy in the California Secretary of State’s Office.

“We are proud of the role this case played in helping to catalyze Secretary Bowen’s historic decision on voting systems in California,” said John Eichhorst, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “Secretary Bowen’s review confirmed the security vulnerabilities we had identified and discovered additional problems with the systems. Her action unwound the certification at issue in our case and sent a strong signal about the importance of election integrity in California.”

“The voters who stood up to bring this case last year are citizen heros and heroines,” said Holly Jacobson, Voter Action’s director and co-founder. “We are honored to have supported them in this case and we will remain vigilant in fighting to protect the right to vote in California and across the country.”

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