Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/10/26/touch_screen_challenge/

Judge bins Florida paper trail challenge

Rules voters' rights 'adequately protected'

By Thomas C Greene

Posted in Government, 26th October 2004 15:51 GMT

US Representative Robert Wexler (Democrat, Florida) has lost a bid to require voting machines to create a voter-verifiable paper trail. Citing equal protection statutes, the Wexler team argued that those Florida districts with touch screen machines would be at a comparative disadvantage if a re-count were required.

And raising the issue of undervoting, team Wexler argued that the machines can't distinguish between a voter who overlooks a race and one who decides not to cast a ballot in it.

Unfortunately, US District Judge James Cohn saw things differently. While he did acknowledge that a voter-verifiable receipt would be preferable, he noted that it was his job to rule on the issue of equal protection that Wexler raised, not to evaluate the design of the ballot machines.

And because the machines present voters with a summary screen before they cast their ballots, and give them an opportunity to correct mistakes and vote in races they might have overlooked, the judge believed that their rights are adequately protected in cases of undervoting.

All this, of course, presumes that the machines work as advertised. But because Wexler didn't challenge them on that basis, it's none of the court's affair. However, we can anticipate a flood of challenges based on how well the machines do what they're supposed to do once we've seen just how many will malfunction. This will no doubt be accompanied by a torrent of fraud accusations, and just about every Constitutional challenge imaginable, come next week.

This year's election is shaping up to be the most bitterly contested in recent memory. One hopes that we'll learn who will be seated in Congress before the next session opens, and who the president will be in time for Inauguration Day. But The Register is not entirely confident. ®

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