The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a Amicus Brief urging the California court to investigate questions of the integrity of electronic voting in Riverside County and that claims by election officials are not enough to satisfy the requirements of California law. CCR also requested that the plaintiff in the case of Soubirous v. Riverside gain access to basic information to determine that the votes were properly and fully counted as required by California law.
“Every vote counts” if and only if every vote it is counted, and counted accurately, in a manner that can be verified repeatedly without variation. To insure the accurate counting and inclusion of each citizen’s vote, California has for 150 years provided for the retention of the physical evidence of a voter’s choice – traditionally a marked paper ballot and more recently the traces of recorded information inside an electronic voting machine. For an equally long time, California has provided for election recounts to confirm as thoroughly as possible that each vote has been accurately counted and included in the total. California law also allows those challenging the accuracy of an election to review not just the ballots as cast by the voters (nonexistent in the case of the electronic voting machines at issue here) but any and all “relevant material”, including the electronic records of vote data and voting machine operations during the election that is stored within each machine and that the petitioners in this case seek.
This case asks a very basic question: when a recount is sought under California law, and the voting equipment used is computerized, can election officials prevent access to any of the internal logging and memory systems by contending that all of that information is “irrelevant” to the question of whether there were voting irregularities? After a narrow election for Riverside County Board of Supervisors, Petitioner Linda Soubirous sought to trigger the state’s recount procedures as permitted under state law. The respondents chose to withhold from Linda crucial system information about the voting equipment used by the vast majority of the population. The problem caused by this case is even more acute because those same election officials have chosen a voting technology that precludes any other method of confirming that the system properly recorded voters’ intentions or of properly auditing the results of the election.
This case involves the application of straightforward principles of California election law to new, controversial voting techniques, known as direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems that have been aggressively marketed and sold to California counties as a way to replace discredited punch card voting machines. While these machines show promise in eliminating some of the problems created by punch cards, serious problems have arisen in connection with the DREs used in California elections as well as elections nationwide. CCR will continue to advocate for the right of citizens to oversee the voting process and for the use of new voting technologies in a transparent way.