The Austin Chronicle

Court Upholds E-Vote Machines

By Lee Nichols, August 8, 2008, News

The Texas Democratic Party's efforts to remove the Hart InterCivic eSlate electronic voting machine (used by Travis and 101 other Texas counties) from use in Texas have been shot down again, this time by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The TDP sued then-Secretary of State Roger Williams last year for approving eSlate machines, allegedly in violation of state law. The TDP pointed out that on eSlate machines, if a voter casts a straight-party ballot but then scrolls down the ballot and punches the name of a particular candidate from that party – just to "make sure" their vote for that candidate is properly recorded – the voter will inadvertently "de-select" that candidate, and no vote will be recorded.

The TDP asserted that this problem violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, state law respecting intent of the voter, and Help America Vote Act provisions requiring "uniform and nondiscriminatory standards" across systems used in the state. But last August, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks granted a summary judgment in favor of Williams, writing that Williams "made a reasonable, politically neutral, and nondiscriminatory choice to certify" the machines. Last week, the 5th Circuit upheld that decision.

"While I have great respect for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, I strongly disagree with their ruling," said TDP Chair Boyd Richie. "I adamantly believe there is evidence that some votes in Texas have not been counted because of defective electronic voting machines, undermining the accuracy and fairness of our elections. The Texas Democratic Party remains committed to protecting every Texan's right to vote, and we will continue consulting with our attorney in order to determine what further steps, if any, we will take in order to resolve this pressing issue."

Hart InterCivic has previously declined to comment on the suit.

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