Sunshine Sought for Texas Election Systems Examiners
Lawsuit Attacks Secrecy of Meetings Where E-voting Machines Are Evaluated
Austin, TX - The ACLU of Texas and a Texas voter today filed a lawsuit demanding that the meetings of the state's voting examiners be held in public.
The voting examiners are responsible for studying electronic voting machines and other voting technologies and recommending to the Secretary of State which systems should be certified for use in Texas. In the past few years, the Secretary of State has routinely adopted the recommendations of the panel, yet he has rebuffed efforts by the public to observe the proceedings, claiming that the panel is not subject to Texas' Open Meetings Act.
Recently, the Texas Safe Voting Coalition obtained videotapes of previous meetings, including one involving Diebold, that suggest a lack of rigor and failure to properly address security and certification compliance issues.
"Texans deserve secure, reliable voting machines, and they deserve to see that the officials charged with certifying those machines are conducting a rigorous evaluation to ensure the systems are secure and effective," said Adina Levin of theTexas ACLU. "All aspects of the voting process in a democracy should be open and transparent, to give citizens confidence in their vote. The evaluation process should not be hidden behind closed doors."
The case, which will be handled by lead counsel Renea Hicks, seeks a ruling opening up the meetings prior to the upcoming August meeting of the examiners. The lawsuit comes on the heels of a letter filed with the Attorney General in July by Consumers Union that also argued that these closed meetings violate the Texas Open Meetings Act. "The public's interest in the state's certification of electronic voting equipment is high," noted Kathy Mitchell, Open Government Policy Analyst for Consumers Union. "The meetings of the examiners represent the critical point of deliberation during which key issues of interest to the public are discussed and debated."
"The country is beginning to look under the rug of election certifications and testing processes, and the scene is not pretty," added Cindy Cohn, Legal Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is serving as co-counsel in the case. "Opening up Texas certification processes should send a signal to testing and certification authorities nationwide that they must perform rigorous, public review of the systems that count our votes."
The Complaint is available here.
Texas Safe Voting Coalition (including clips of a January, 2004 examiner meeting).
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Director, Cyberliberties Project