US: Lawsuits Filed Over Voting Machines : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Tuesday January 9 7:44 PM ET Lawsuits Filed Over U.S. Voting Machines

MIAMI (Reuters) - Two class-action lawsuits filed in Florida and Illinois on Tuesday challenge the use of ''Votomatic'' voting machines, the controversial punch-card ballot systems at the heart of the disputed U.S. presidential election ultimately won by George W. Bush (news - web sites).

The Florida suit, filed by disgruntled voters against Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (news - external web site) and a host of county officials, said the machines have inherent flaws that render them unable to count votes accurately, depriving Floridians of equal voting rights under the U.S. constitution.

The machines were widely used in Florida, where disputes over vote counting in several heavily populated counties led to a protracted legal battle that finally ended on Dec. 13 when Vice President Al Gore (news - web sites) conceded the presidential race.

Bush won by just a few hundred votes in Florida, the state both men needed to gain the required electoral votes to win one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history.

The vote counting disputes in Florida centered mainly on punch-card systems used in the state's biggest counties, where Republicans and Democrats staged epic battles over ``hanging,'' ''pregnant'' and ``dimpled'' chads -- the tiny bits of paper a voter is supposed to knock out of the punch cards in order to register a vote.

The suit contends that the use of Votomatic machines violated Florida laws requiring that officials use equipment that counts votes accurately.

Voters Deserve Better

``It has been known for at least 30 years that the Votomatic is inherently defective and unable to count votes accurately,'' plaintiffs' attorney Matthew Pawa said in a statement. ``There is no excuse for its continued use. American voters deserve better than to have their voting rights taken away by machines that do not work.''

The Florida suit was filed in Leon County Circuit Court in the state capital, Tallahassee, scene of many of the court battles fought by Bush, Gore and their supporters.

The suit filed in St. Clair County, Illinois names as defendants several companies including Election Systems & Software, Inc., of Omaha, Nebraska and Sequoia Pacific Systems of Exeter, California.

It alleged that the companies sell products and services necessary for the ongoing use of the Votomatic machines while failing to tell customers that the machines have serious defects, unfair and deceptive trade practices that violate consumer fraud statutes.

``Defendants...have falsely represented that the Votomatic system performs as intended despite its well-known and severe defects,'' the lawsuit said.

Officials at both companies were not immediately available for comment.

The Florida lawsuit asks the courts to prevent the Votomatic machines from being used in future elections and the Illinois suit asks that the defendants be barred from selling products or services connected to the machines.

The suits were filed by the Washington, D.C. law firm of Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll and Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley of Cincinnati, Ohio.

-- Rachel Gibson (, January 09, 2001

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