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Following the study concluding Evidence Of Election Irregularities In Snohomish County, Washington, General Election, 2004, Paul Lehto and John Wells filed Lehto and Wells v. Sequoia and Snohomish County in King County Superior Court (4/7/05).

From Paul Lehto's email announcement (4/8/05):

We're seeking to void the purchase contract for Sequoia DREs and return the money (around $5 million) to Snohomish County government taxpayers.

More below the fold...

Paul Lehto continues:
The various claims are basically all different way or reasons to reach this same result, but the claims include impairing the right to vote, attempting to change the rights of citizens through a mere purchase contract, and violations of what have been called the strongest public policies in the state of Washington, like that of the Open Meetings Act quoted here:

"The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created."

WashBlog has been following local coverage: Everett Herald covers touchscreen e-voting lawsuit (4/8/05) and Seattle PI article mentions touchscreen lawsuit (4/9/05).  

Please visit and link to Voters Unite.  They're doing a great job tracking electronic voting issues nationally.

Also, I encourage you to listen to an interview with Paul Lehto and Randy Gordon on Mind Over Matters - Legal Challenge to Electronic Voting Machines in WA State.

I've read both the original study and the lawsuit.  Well worth your time.  (The study's preface has a great summary.)  Of the many noteworthy items, these ones stuck with me:

  • Snohomish County had both paper ballots and touch screen voting, permitting apples to apples comparisons.  Lehto and Wells found that paper ballots correlated nicely with exit polling data whereas touch screen voting did not.

  • As everyone knows, our 2004 Governor's race was very tight.  In Snohomish County, which had 284,817 total votes, Gregoire led Rossi on the paper ballots with 50.47% of the vote.  If the electronic voting had followed both the paper ballots and exit polling, Gregoire would have won Snohomish County by nearly 2,700 votes (142,753 to 141,064).  However, on the computers, Rossi led Gregoire with 54.45% of the vote.  That 5% swing gave Rossi Snohomish County by 6,439 votes (139,189 to 145,628).  As Lehto argues, the possibility of such a difference occuring unintentionally is all but impossible.  (Please see study for original numbers, in case of my typos.)

  • The electronic voting machines which were "serviced" in the two weeks prior to the election, which had glitches (e.g. vote switching) on election day, or both, overwhelmingly favored Rossi.

  • I hadn't realized that WA State Secretary of State Sam Reed permitted the use of Sequoia machines without certification.  That's "suboptimal".

  • As Paul Lehto and others have repeatedly pointed out, it's not the citizen's job to prove fraud.  The burden of proof, for fair and open elections, lies with the government, which derives it's authority from the people.

  • And most alarming, to me, is Snohomish County's contract with Sequoia stipulating that vote counting is confidential and a trade secret.  Fortunately, in Washington State, we have constitutional guarantees to fair, open, and verifiable elections.

The genius of this lawsuit (Lehto and Well v. Sequoia and Snohomish County) is the intent to toss out electronic voting machines altogether.  No halfway measures here!  As a life long computer geek, I know with absolute certainty that no amount of expense, cleverness, and effort can be sufficient enough to devise a computer-based solution that will meet or surpass the robustness, openness, ease of use, and verifiability of paper ballots and manual counting.

Update: Changed the title to stimulate interest.

Originally posted to zappini on Sun Apr 10, 2005 at 02:31 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hear, Hear for Paper! (none)
    I was a Dem recount observer in Clallam County and I was very pleased with the oversight and redundancy used to verify the paper ballot count.  In spite of the tense atmosphere due to the fact that the County offices involved are dominated by Republicans, I felt that my vote and those of my neighbors, was handled with collective integrity.

    Good to hear a 'lifelong computer geek' confirm my 'lifelong book geek''s intuition!

    •  Hear, Hear for Paper! (4.00)
      Thank you! for participating.  I regret not being more involved in the election.  Next time...

      It's counterintuitive for our technophilic culture, but paper ballots and manual counting are empirically better.  There was a vote counter (for the manual recount) who gave testimony at one of the election reform public meetings who stated that he was surprised to learn that manual counting, with the crosschecks and so forth, was a self-correcting process.  The count actually became more accurate over time.  That's a fanastic observation.

      He, like myself and many other people, originally believed that optical scan counting was the most reliable mechanism.  It's a hard adjustment to make.  But over time I learned that stuff like languages, mathematics, and hammers are all technologies too.  So electronic voting versus paper ballots and manual counting isn't high tech vs low-tech.  That's a false distinction.  It's just technology vs technology.  Each has its strengths and weaknesses.  We'd do well to assess each on its own merits.

      Torture is treason.

      by zappini on Sun Apr 10, 2005 at 03:27:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  May the success of this lawsuit (none)
    ripple across the entire nation.
  •  DO IT DO IT DO IT (none)
    As a software geek, I agree that the one and only way to have a chance for fair elections is Paper Ballots, counted by hand, in full view of the public.  On video.  Recorded.  Transfer of ballots supervised with the same care (or greater) as the maintenance of evidenciary records in high level criminal cases.

    People who want quick poll estimates are welcome to use machines to count them. Let that be the business of Diebold and Sequoia. But the legal and certified record must only be derived from a verifiable source.

    People with disabilities are well served by assistive sytems, and I as a taxpayer am more than happy to help foot the bill for such systems.

  •  yes (none)
    getting rid of computer vote machines entirely and increasing the transparency of the all-paper count may be the best solution(s) after all.

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