Soubirous v. Riverside (amicus) Historic Case

At a Glance

Date Filed: 

February 2004

Current Status 

Currently on appeal, according to People for the American Way.

Case Description 

In February, 2004, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) joined an amicus brief in Soubirous v. Riverside, urging the California court to investigate questions of the integrity of electronic voting in Riverside County, California.

After a narrow election for Riverside County Board of Supervisors in March, 2004, 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. In response to this, California Vote Foundation “CVF”, America’s Families United, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, and Voters Unite! and CCR collectively filed an amicus brief which requested that Ms. Soubirous gain access to basic information to determine that the votes were properly and fully counted as required by California law. 

To ensure 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 also provides that those challenging the accuracy of an election are entitled 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 involves the application of straightforward principles of California election law to new and controversial voting techniques, known as direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems.  These 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, other 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.
 (Currently on appeal—according to People for the American Way.)