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EFF Battles to Save Critical Ohio E-Voting Case
Court Fight Continues As Princeton Researchers Demonstrate 'Vote Stealing'
San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reject Ohio's latest attempt to dismiss a critical electronic voting case -- the final legal hurdle in the path to a thorough investigation of the state's widely criticized 2004 election and much needed reform.
"Ohio's procedures, like many used elsewhere across the country, simply don't do enough to protect voters from the serious vulnerabilities in the current generation of electronic voting equipment," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "It's time to let this important case go forward so that these critical problems can finally be resolved."
Last fall, EFF filed suit on behalf of voter Jeanne White against Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and Governor Bob Taft, alleging that they had abdicated their responsibilities to protect the fundamental right to vote of Ohio residents. When White voted on Election Day in 2004, the electronic voting machine she used malfunctioned, causing her vote to toggle from one candidate to another. White's problems were not isolated: other voters reported unacceptably long lines, inadequately trained pollworkers, and voting machines that failed to record their votes correctly. Similar problems were reported in the 2005 elections and in the May 2, 2006, primary, including a chaotic election in Cuyahoga County where election officials have launched a formal investigation.
In its brief, EFF argues that the widespread and deeply rooted failings in Ohio's voting system stem from incoherent and inadequate procedures, inconsistent standards, and lack of planning and training -- all of which raise serious questions about the basic fairness of the state's elections. The suit aims to require the state to dramatically increase the security and accuracy of its voting technology and related election procedures.
"The state claims that its election system merely exhibits 'garden variety' problems and that the blame for those should rest on pollworkers and other officials," said Zimmerman. "The governor and secretary of state of Ohio, however, have the ultimate duty of protecting citizens' fundamental right to vote. Instead of trying to avoid responsibility for a system in crisis, these officials need to step up to their responsibilities."
The lawsuit will also provide the best chance yet to demonstrate the true "in the field" performance record of electronic voting equipment, details of which are carefully controlled by election officials and voting equipment vendors. EFF's brief was filed on the same day that researchers at Princeton University released a critical new report demonstrating the ability to manipulate results on a Diebold electronic voting machine. The study, led by Professor Edward W. Felten, found that the machine was extremely vulnerable to "vote-stealing" attacks that would undermine the accuracy of vote counts.
EFF is working with co-counsel Kerger and Associates Zuckerman, Spaeder, Goldstein, Taylor & Kolker and Heller, Ehrman, White and McAuliffe, LLP, as it pursues this case.
For the full appellate brief:
For more on the Ohio suit:
For more on the Professor Felten's research: