ACLU Seeks to Remedy Georgia's 'Fatally Flawed' Voting System

Affiliate: ACLU of Georgia
January 5, 2001 12:00 am

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ATLANTA — The American Civil Liberties Union and three Atlanta attorneys today filed the first post-election challenge to a state’s electoral process, saying that voters in some Georgia counties were ten times more likely than others to lose their right to vote because of a “fatally flawed” system that disproportionately affects people of color.

The lawsuit was filed in State Superior Court on behalf of seven African American voters in DeKalb, Fulton and Cobb counties whose votes in the presidential election were not counted due to flawed machinery.

“We have filed this lawsuit in order to ensure that by 2002, minority voters and indeed all voters in the state of Georgia can be confident that their voices will be heard and their votes counted on Election Day,” said Laughlin McDonald, Director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project based in Atlanta.

In its legal complaint, the ACLU called the state’s voting system “a hodgepodge consisting of antiquated devices, confusing mechanisms, and equipment having significant error rates even when properly used.”

“Even Gov. Roy Barnes and Secretary of State Cathy Cox have acknowledged the serious flaws in Georgia’s voting system, but unfortunately the remedy lies with a legislature that may not propose an adequate solution,” said attorney Kenneth S. Canfield, an author of the legal complaint.

Georgia law currently authorizes the use of a variety of mechanisms for recording the votes cast during an election, including paper ballot, voting machine (lever), vote recorder (punch card machine), electrical scanning systems, and certain electronic voting systems.

While the ACLU found a high level of error in punch card machines (4.7 percent), it said that the 2.1 percent error rate for the more sophisticated optical scanners was also unacceptable under state and federal law.

The state’s failure to accurately record votes deprives its citizens of equal protection and due process as guaranteed under state law and by the United States Constitution, and violates the federal Voting Rights Act, the ACLU said.

To remedy the violations, the voters are asking the court to permanently block the state from conducting any future elections in Georgia “using machinery that fails to correctly and accurately record every vote cast.” If the state is unable to provide an accurate system, the lawsuit asks the court to assume supervision of the next election.

The case, Andrews v. Cox et al., was filed by McDonald and Neil Bradley of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project and attorneys Kenneth S. Canfield and Ralph Knowles of Doffermyre Shields Canfield Knowles & Devine and Gary B. Andrews and C. Cooper Knowles of Andrews & Knowles, all of Atlanta.

The complaint is online at:

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