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Texas Court Orders Voting Examiners' Meetings Opened to Public

PRESS RELEASE
January 27, 2005

Requires "Sunshine" in Process of Choosing E-voting Machines

Texas - A Texas court ruled today that state voting examiners may no longer bar the public from their meetings. In the case, ACLU of Texas v. Connor, the plaintiffs argued that the Texas Open Meetings Act should apply to meetings of the voting examiners. These meetings are used to decide what kinds of electronic voting machines will be used in upcoming elections. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was co-counsel in the case.

"The court rightly rejected Texas' policy of shutting the public out of the processes for selecting voting technologies. The need for public trust in our election systems cannot be overstated, and this is a terrific step forward for the voters of Texas," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman.

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 routinely adopted the recommendations of the panel yet rebuffed efforts by the public to observe the proceedings, claiming that the panel is not subject to Texas' Open Meetings Act.

"I'm not at all surprised at this ruling," added Jon Lebkowsky of EFF-Texas, one of the plaintiffs in the case. "What surprised me was that the meetings weren't open in the first place!"

Recently, the Texas Safe Voting Coalition obtained videotapes of previous meetings, including one involving Diebold Election Systems, that suggest a lack of rigor and failure to address proper security and certification compliance issues.

"This ruling allows specialists in areas including computer security, accessibility, and minority rights to offer their own skills to complement the state's official election examiners," said Dan Wallach, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at Rice University and outspoken critic of poorly designed electronic voting systems.

More on e-voting here.

Contacts:

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
cindy@eff.org

Matt Zimmerman
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
mattz@eff.org

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