Circuit Court Deliberates Manual Recount Problems with Touchscreen Voting Machines

Florida - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of national groups concerned with voting integrity filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a seminal e-voting case brought by Florida Congressman Robert Wexler and others. Florida law requires manual recounts in close races. Rep. Wexler's case argues that when Florida election officials purchased touchscreen voting machines that do not leave a paper trail, they prevented true manual recounts and violated this law. The Congressman also argues that the touchscreen voting machines violate federal constitutional law.

Wexler lost at the district court level and now appeals to the 11th Circuit Court. In its brief, EFF lists 17 examples in which touchscreen voting machine models used in Florida experienced significant problems -- including throwing election results into doubt -- because they were not designed to allow manual recounts. EFF also noted that a number of currently available technologies preserve the ability to conduct manual recounts, meaning that Florida election officials are simply choosing to use machines that flout state law. "While touchscreen voting machines offer some promising advances, critical shortcomings still exist in both design and implementation, not the least of which is a failure to allow for meaningful recounts," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "With better solutions available for Florida voters, systems that can't be audited simply have to go."

"In the aftermath of the 2004 election, we saw county after county engage in phony 'recounts' on touchscreen machines that lacked paper trails. If the 11th Circuit Court recognizes that true manual recounts are not possible on these machines, it will not only help Florida voters, it could help encourage election officials across the country to choose voting technologies that increase, rather than decrease, voter confidence," added EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn.

Joining EFF on the brief are Common Cause, People for the American Way Foundation,, Center for Constitutional Rights, Computer Scientists for Social Responsibility, and Voters Unite.

For more information about e-voting, visit EFF's website.


Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Matt Zimmerman
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation