ACLU of Florida Urges Palm Beach Court to Safeguard Voters' Rights in Disputed Election

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
May 28, 2002 12:00 am

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MIAMI –Seeking to safeguard the rights of local voters, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today asked a Palm Beach court for permission to file a friend-of-the court brief in a pending lawsuit contesting the results of a March 26 run-off election.

At issue is the use of electronic touch-screen voting machines in a run-off election in the village of Wellington that named Lizbeth Benacquisto the winner of a city council seat by only four votes. If permitted to enter the case, the ACLU will urge the court to order an appropriate remedy in the contested election and to impose minimum standards for touch-screen voting methods.

“”Without some standards to ensure the accuracy of new high-tech voting methods, the upcoming general election promises to be a repeat of the debacle of the November 2000 Presidential election,”” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida.

In sworn statements, Wellington voters said they encountered problems with the new electronic voting method, including malfunctions that prevented their votes from being recorded even after they touched the screens.

Of the 2,600 ballots cast, the ACLU said, the touch-screen machines failed to record the votes of 78 people who went to the polls (89 votes were cast by absentee ballot, which did not involve the use of touch-screens). As a result, candidate Albert Paglia filed a lawsuit challenging the outcome of the March 26 election, arguing that malfunction skewed the results and tainted the election process.

“The legitimacy of an elected government depends on the reliability of the election process,”” said Gregory J. Shibley, an ACLU of Florida cooperating attorney. “”That process includes voting, and where applicable, recounts. The ACLU’s interest is in the integrity of the election process, not in who wins the election. We seek to defend and protect the right to vote, and to ensure, insofar as possible, that every vote is counted.”

The ACLU recommends setting voting standards that ensure that voters can verify choices prior to casting a ballot and that the touch-screen voting systems are capable of producing a record of each vote cast, a summary of the total votes cast, and a notification to voters when their votes are not recorded.

“”When faulty voting systems interfere with a person’s right to vote and skew election results, courts have an obligation to issue an appropriate remedy, including, when appropriate, a new election,”” said Simon. “”Unless the court steps in to address the problem and set standards for election officials across the state, we’re headed for a disaster in November when these new voting technologies will be used in Florida’s most populous counties.””

For more information on the ACLU of Florida’s work on voting rights issues, go to http://www.aclufl.org/votingrights.html

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