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By CARLOS CAMPOS
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/14/06
The state of Georgia should stop relying on electronic voting machines because there's no guarantee they accurately record votes, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Fulton County.
Among its claims, the lawsuit by a group of activists contends the state's touch-screen voting machines violate state constitutional guarantees that elections be conducted by secret ballot.
Also, by simply pressing buttons on a screen and not receiving a hard-copy evidence of the votes cast, voters cannot be assured their choices were accurately counted, according to the complaint.
The suit was filed in Fulton County Superior Court by eight people across metro Atlanta, including anti-touch-screen machine and political activists. The plaintiffs include members, officers or volunteers of the Constitution, Green, Libertarian and Democratic parties.
The lawsuit names Secretary of State Cathy Cox, Gov. Sonny Perdue and the state Election Board as defendants. It comes just five days before the July 18 primaries, when almost 1 million voters are expected to select candidates.
The suit is not seeking to halt the elections, said plaintiff Garland Favorito, a computer consultant from Roswell. And the plaintiffs insist they are not opposed to electronic voting in Georgia, but to the manner in which it was implemented.
"What more could you do to disenfranchise voters than you've already done?" Favorito said.
Cox's office issued a statement Thursday saying that a "robust and vigorous program" of security procedures are in place to make sure votes are accurately recorded and machines are tamper-proof.
"While we have not seen the lawsuit, the reality is that millions of Georgians have voted safely and accurately on Georgia's voting system in hundreds of elections throughout the state over the last four years," Cox press secretary Kara Sinkule wrote.
Favorito said the machines lack a voter-verified paper audit trail that can be hand-counted. Such a mechanism would allow voters to match the selections made on the touchscreen with a paper "receipt" produced by the machine. The receipt would drop into a locked box and could later be counted by hand, if necessary.
Georgia will experiment with a paper trail at the polls this November. Machines in three precincts — one each in Bibb, Camden and Cobb counties — will produce a receipt.
But Favorito said the experiment doesn't do enough, because the receipts, as proposed, are also vulnerable to tampering.
Cox initially opposed paper trails, but has since changed her position. Perdue's office repeated the governor's support for paper receipts.
"Unlike the Democratic leadership, Gov. Perdue has always supported a paper trail as a backup to Georgia's electronic voting machines," said Perdue spokesman Shane Hix.
This latest challenge to the way Georgians vote comes a day after two courts weighed in on two other battles.
Judges in both federal and state courts recently halted enforcement of a new law requiring voters to show one of six forms of photo ID at the polls in order to cast a ballot. Voters still must show one of 17 forms of ID, including some nonphoto documents.
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© 2006 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution