Good news from California's Alameda County -- a judge has voided election results after the county botched its response to a contested race conducted on Diebold electronic voting machines. The judge ordered that the disputed Measure R -- an initiative addressing the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries -- go back on next year's ballot.
Measure R lost by fewer than 200 votes in the 2004 election, and Americans for Safe Access and voters in the city of Berkeley brought a legal challenge seeking a recount. But while the lawsuit was ongoing, election officials returned the voting machines to supplier Diebold Election Systems, and 96% of the detailed audit information from the election was destroyed. EFF helped analyze the remaining data, but as the judge recognized, it was impossible to tell if the tallies reported on election night were correct.
This decision was expected, but it's heartening that Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith saw the ramifications of the county's behavior and ordered the appropriate remedy. If there is no way to examine data, audit logs, and chain-of-custody records, there is no way to do an accurate recount. This is only the second time in Californian history that a court has ordered than an election be rerun. The message is clear: using electronic voting machines and keeping sloppy records is not an acceptable way to run an election.
The news is good in California, but serious reforms are needed nationwide, including a voter-verified paper trail and mandatory random audits. Contact your representative today and voice your support for H.R. 811, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007.