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Judge keeps straw poll's computerized voting machines

By JENNIFER JACOBS

REGISTER STAFF WRITER

 

August 11, 2007

 

A federal judge shot down a request from a group of Iowans who wanted ballots at today's Republican straw poll to be stored in clear plastic containers, then hand counted. They distrust computerized voting machines.

 

U.S. District Judge James Gritzner of Des Moines denied their request Friday for a temporary restraining order and an injunction against the straw poll's use of the Diebold machines. The judge said no previous legal rulings show that an unofficial straw poll offered by a private political entity is a public election entitled to constitutional protections.

 

The group of voting machine watchdogs oppose the Iowa Republican Party presidential straw poll's use of Diebold election systems machines. California elections officials decertified Diebold machines last week after a "top-to-bottom" security review found fundamental weaknesses. The California machines can still be used in that state, but new security measures are in place.

 

The machines at the straw poll are owned by Story County; 71 counties in Iowa use Diebold machines.

 

The watchdog group thinks the machines leave voting "ripe for fraud or machine failure - or even sabotage," according to a complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court.

 

The plaintiffs included five Iowans: Jennifer Maki of Dubuque, Pam Wagner of Homestead, Troy Reha of Des Moines, Ginger Corbett of Maquoketa and Roger Leahy of Fairfield. Three other plaintiffs: James Condit Jr. of Ohio, founder of Citizens for a Fair Vote Count; Robert L. Schulz of New York, leader of an organization called We the People; and Walter Reddy of Connecticut purchased the $35 tickets to the event but are not qualified to vote in the straw poll.

 

The complaint was filed against Mary Mosiman, Story County election commissioner; Ray Hoffman, Iowa Republican Party chairman; the state of Iowa; Story County; and David Vaudt, state auditor. Voting will take place on the Iowa State University campus and will be overseen by Mosiman's office, with assistance from the state auditor's office.

 

Mosiman on Friday expressed confidence in Story County's machines, saying testing shows they are counting votes correctly.

 

"This is a very secure process, and we wouldn't want a machine that wasn't functioning properly," she said.

 

Reporter Jennifer Janeczko Jacobs can be reached at (515) 284-8127 or jejacobs@dmreg.com

 

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