ACLU Files Federal Lawsuit Challenging Use of Obsolete "Punch Card" Voting Machines in California Recall Election

August 7, 2003 12:00 am

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ACLU Files Federal Lawsuit Challenging Use of Obsolete “Punch Card” Voting Machines in California Recall Election


LOS ANGELES – With a gubernatorial recall election pending in the state, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California today filed a lawsuit challenging the continued use of outdated, obsolete voting machines in counties with high concentrations of minority voters.

“”The ACLU of Southern California takes no position on the Governor’s recall,”” said Ramona Ripston, Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California. “”Our interest is in seeing to it that every voter will have his or her vote counted accurately. Most of us are now aware of the problems associated with these voting machines and I don’t believe any one of us would like to see a repeat of the Florida presidential election debacle here in the Golden State.””

According to the ACLU’s complaint, the “”punch card”” voting machines are the same machines at the center of the controversy surrounding the contested 2000 presidential election in Florida. The continued use of the “”punch card”” machines will needlessly and unlawfully disenfranchise African-American, Latino, and Asian-American voters in counties where such machines are still in use, the ACLU said in legal papers.

Following the contested presidential election of 2000, the ACLU of Southern California filed a lawsuit against California officials on similar grounds and won. The state then entered into a consent decree, whereby election officials agreed to replace all “”punch card”” voting machines in use by the March 2004 primary election.

But if a recall election takes place in October 2003, as many as 8 million voters could be at the mercy of the defective “”VotoMatic”” or “”Pollstar”” machines which use “”punch card”” technology, the ACLU warned. At least six counties in the state (Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Clara, Solano, and Mendocino) are certain to use “”punch card”” voting machines if the recall election takes place as scheduled on October 7, 2003.

In the November 2000 presidential election, the error rate for the “”punch card”” machines was more than double that of any other system used in the state. “”Votomatic”” or “”Pollstar”” machines accounted for 74.8 percent of all ballots cast that did not register a vote for president in California.

“”If the October election goes forward, we can predict with absolute certainty that every Californian’s vote will not count,”” said Mark Rosenbaum, Legal Director of the ACLU of Southern California. “”Democracy in California should not hang by a chad.””

The ACLU of Northern California and ACLU of San Diego joined the ACLU of Southern California in filing today’s lawsuit.

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