California Recount Case to Consider E-Voting Audit Trail
Jul 16, 2004, 12:46
RIVERSIDE, CA Former Riverside County Board of Supervisors candidate Linda Soubirous, national election integrity organization VerifiedVoting.org, and a bi-partisan pair of Riverside County voters today sued Riverside County and its Registrar of Voters Mischelle Townsend because the county refused to conduct a proper recount of a March 2004 election with a razor-thin margin. The Soubirous lawsuit could guarantee public access to security records stored inside electronic voting machines in future recounts.
The case arises from a very close March 2004 race for the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in which the declared winner avoided a runoff by a mere 45 votes. California election law permits any voter to request and review "all relevant election materials" pertaining to a recount. Second-place candidate Linda Soubirous requested the materials that the Registrar and machine vendor Sequoia Voting Systems tout as the fundamental security features of the electronic voting system namely the audit logs, the redundant memory stored in the machines, the results of "logic and accuracy" tests, and the chain-of-custody records for the system components. Despite the clear mandate of California law, Registrar Townsend refused to grant Ms. Soubirous access to any of this material, arguing that it was not "relevant" to a recount.
"I was shocked when Riverside County election officials told me that access to the internal memories of the voting machines was not 'relevant' to a recount," said plaintiff Linda Soubirous, who ran in the nonpartisan election. "Of course the internal information is relevant without it, there's no way to determine whether the votes were recorded and counted properly inside the machine." Ms. Soubirous has not sought to challenge the election results in this action, but only to gain access to the election data from March and for future recounts.
"VerifiedVoting.org joined the Soubirous e-voting recount case to make available all relevant information about whether e-voting machines have succeeded or failed in recording citizens' votes properly," said Will Doherty, Executive Director of VerifiedVoting.org. "This landmark case should improve election integrity and transparency by setting the requirements for recounts on e-voting machines and supplementing the voter-verified paper ballots already mandated by California Secretary of State Shelley." The Electronic Frontier Foundation is also supporting the case.
"In a recent federal case, Weber v. Shelley, the court of appeals dismissed a challenge to these same Riverside County e-voting machines in reliance on the assurances of Riverside County election officials and system vendors, who boasted that the machines featured redundant data paths to store ballot images and audit logs in triplicate," added Gregory Luke, an attorney at Santa Monica's Strumwasser and Woocher, which is handling the case. "Yet when this exact information was sought by Ms. Soubirous during a recount in 2004, those same Riverside officials refused to produce it. This case raises critical questions about whether elections officials can effectively erase whole chapters of the Election Code that guarantee all citizens the right to request a meaningful recount."