Decision Confirms County Council's Ability to Purchase Accessible, Auditable Equipment
Orlando, FL - A federal District Court judge in Florida ruled today that Volusia County is not required to purchase touchscreen voting machines that do not produce a voter-verifiable paper trail. Pending appeal, the county may now move forward with its plans to purchase voting equipment that is both accessible to disabled voters and that creates an auditable paper trail to protect against errors and fraud.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Florida attorney Jeff Liggio filed an emergency friend-of-the-court brief in the case on behalf of disabled residents of Volusia County who opposed the purchase of the paperless machines. The brief, supporting Volusia County Council members who seek to purchase an alternative voting system, was submitted on behalf of the Handicapped Voters of Volusia County (HAVOC) in opposition to a lawsuit filed July 5th by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The NFB suit sought to force the county to spend approximately $700,000 of state funds on Diebold voting equipment that the county has repeatedly rejected as inferior to the accessible, paper-producing AutoMARK system offered by ES&S.
"The District Court correctly found that Volusia County was right all along," said Matt Zimmerman, EFF staff attorney. "County officials have shown a tremendous amount of courage in resisting pressure to make a misguided decision that could harm voters. The county has already identified a solution that provides better accessibility as well as creates a voter-verified paper audit trail. The county now has the opportunity to put that system into place in the near future."
Added David Dixon, president of HAVOC, "We're very, very pleased with this decision. We look forward to working with the county to help implement a system that protects the rights of all voters."
In his opinion, District Court Judge John Antoon rejected the argument that a Florida statute required immediate purchase of machines that can't be properly audited, writing, "The Court must assume that, if the Florida legislature had intended to place a legal obligation on counties to purchase electronic voting systems, it would have clearly expressed as much...It did not do so." The Court also noted the benefits of a verifiable paper trail, stating that it is "a feature which has proved valuable in at least one of Florida's past elections."
The NFB has appealed the ruling and EFF and HAVOC will participate in the appeal proceedings as well.
Electronic Frontier Foundation