Supreme Court refuses to hear paper trail suit
Published: Tuesday, January 9, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 8, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
The U.S. Supreme Court will not consider whether Florida's touch-screen voting machines need to have a paper trail in case of a recount.
The court Monday declined to hear U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler's appeal of a lower court ruling that the state's touch-screen voting machines don't need to leave a paper ballot trail.
The Democrat from Boca Raton had sued in 2004, alleging the state was disenfranchising voters because some counties use machines that don't allow for a recount based on paper ballots, while other counties have machines that do.
The Supreme Court didn't comment in declining to consider Wexler's appeal of a decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Florida could use electronic touch-screen voting machines that don't leave a trail of paper ballots that can be looked at during a recount. In most Florida counties, there is an actual paper ballot that can be re-examined to determine which candidate a voter chose if there is a question. Touch-screens don't use any paper ballots.
The appeals court had found that "Florida's manual recount procedures do not deprive voters of due process" because the state has a technique for reviewing votes cast on the touch-screen machines even without a lengthy paper trail.
Touch-screen machines have electronic ballot summaries that can be printed out, but Wexler and other critics of paperless voting say those summaries don't provide enough detailed information to determine whether the voter made a mistake or the machine malfunctioned.
The lawsuit was filed in the wake of questions after the 2002 elections, with the 2000 election recount in the presidential race still fresh in Floridians' minds.
But it continues to be relevant; the race for Florida's 13th congressional district in Southwest Florida is in dispute because of the large number of touch-screen machines that didn't record a vote for that particular race. Republican Vern Buchanan has been seated in the district, but a lawsuit has been filed contesting the outcome.
Wexler said Monday that the Supreme Court was not being consistent. In the 2000 presidential recount, the court said Florida counties couldn't have different standards when counting votes.
"Well, today in Florida, different counties employ different standards," Wexler said.
Congress is expected to consider legislation this year that would require a paper trail for touch-screen voting and Democrats now in control in Congress generally favor it.
"But for the change in Congress there would be no hope," Wexler said.
adding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California is in favor of a paper trail requirement.
The case is Wexler v. Anderson, 06-401.
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