On Wednesday, a New Mexico state court judge denied a summary judgment motion made by Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron and permitted the plaintiffs in an important e-voting challenge to move forward with discovery. The suit, filed in January of 2005, challenges the state's use of paperless e-voting systems in the wake of widespread irregularities reported surrounding the use of such machines during the 2004 presidential election.
Meanwhile, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Attorney General Patricia Madrid have proposed legislation that would require the use of paper-based systems that would permit meaningful recounts and audits. The plan, if adopted, would also provide over $11 million in additional state funds for counties to upgrade their existing systems.
The New Mexico litigation (Lopategui v. Vigil-Giron) moves forward following the expiration of a key federal voting equipment deadline that promises new rounds of litigation across the country. The Help America Vote Act, passed in 2002, required jurisdictions using federal funds to upgrade from older punchcard and lever machine by January 1st. Multiple states and counties, including New York, have thus far failed to meet their obligations. Auditable election advocates (including EFF) have criticized the federal government for its ongoing failure to promulgate comprehensive technical guidelines and for failing to properly oversee the federal voting equipment certification process.
2006 promises to be yet another fiercely competitive election year. Expect the fight for transparent and auditable systems to again be an important part of that landscape.