Tuesday, February 13, 2007

TDP Files Suit Against Texas Secretary of State

Chairman Boyd Ritchie of the Texas Democratic Party issued an anticipated press release this afternoon. The Texas Democratic Party has filed suit today against Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams. The suit alleges that the Secretary of State has violated the Texas Election Code, and the United States Constitution in allowing counties to consider among possible electronic voting machine alternatives, the eSlate machine that is produced by Hart Intercivic.

Ninety-four counties in Texas have chosen to use the eSlate machine in their elections. The suit, the text of which can be found in a PDF here, charges that Hart Intercivic’s eSlate machine “collects and records votes differently than other voting machines in use in the state.” It does this in such a way that a voter's votes may actually not be recorded.

Voter intent is all over the Texas Election Code. Voter intent is easy to observe on a paper ballot. eSlate can, if a voter enters a perfectly allowable emphasis of their vote, actually nullify the voter’s selection.

Here’s the crux of the argument.

The TEC allows for a straight ticket vote. A voter who simply checks the straight ticket box will have his intent recorded for every candidate of that party on the ballot, and no vote cast for an office that has no candidate aligned with that party.

The TEC also allows for a straight ticket vote and for votes for the opponent of the voter’s party of choice. Voter intent: the voter votes for all candidates in that party, and for individual opponents of that party where indicated.

The TEC also allows for a straight ticket vote and for voters to then go down the list of candidates and vote for them individually, as either an emphasis factor, or simply to make sure that his choice is clear. Surprise, surprise, some voters do not trust the “straight ticket process” and just want to make sure their intent is recorded.

All voting machines approved for Texas but eSlate allow for this third case, that is specifically mentioned in the Texas Election Code. HOWEVER, using eSlate, if a voter selects a straight party vote, then proceeds down the list to mark each candidate as a point of emphasis, eSlate’s hardwired programming deselects the voter’s vote.
“Each time the voter makes an individual selection by selecting a candidate from the same party as their straight party choice the eSlate records no vote at all for that race.”
A final summary screen indicates how the voter voted. If the voter is not canny and does not check out the summary screen, by pushing “Cast Ballot”, the voter is disenfranchised.

So not only is eSlate in violation of the Texas Election Code, voters in the 94 counties of Texas have also had their 14th Amendment rights infringed by the Texas Secretary of State: Violation of Due Process and Equal Protection.

The suit seeks relief from the Secretary of State first by having a Temporary Restraining Order forbid further use of the eSlate machine in Texas. The suit also claims that "the Plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law because the substantial damages and harm from Defenders conduct are incalculable and a money judgement would not serve as adequate compensation.“

The suit also asks that if eSlate cannot be reprogrammed to follow the law as set forth in the TEC, then an order preventing the use of eSlate machines in this state should be issued.

So there it is. The Texas Democratic Party working for the voters to ensure their vote is counted and counted as cast. I don’t know about the money thing, though. Frankly if voters in 94 counties had their votes placed in peril because of the SOS, I think we need some sort of relief or apology.

How about Secretary of State Roger Williams has to attend the county fairs of each and every one of the affected counties? How about he sits in a dunk tank all day and anyone on the voter roll is given three free balls?

I’d call it even after that.

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