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Georgia granted summary judgment in electronic voting lawsuit

[JURIST] A Fulton County Superior Court [official website] judge on Monday granted summary judgment for the state of Georgia in a suit alleging that the state's electronic voting system is unconstitutional and illegally vulnerable to fraud. The challenge, filed in 2006 by a coalition of Georgia voters called Voter GA [advocacy website], alleged that the system's lack of paper documentation compromises accuracy and fraud detection, providing no way to perform a recount. The group asserted that the system violates voters' due process rights because fraudulent manipulation cannot be detected, and violates equal protection rights by creating a disparity where absentee voters use ballots that can be verified, audited and recounted. The state maintained that the electronic system is more secure than older voting systems. Lawyers for Voter GA said they will appeal the decision. Also Monday, US Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey [official website; JURIST news archive] and senior Department of Justice officials met with rights groups and state and local officials to discuss ballot protection efforts [DOJ press release] for the upcoming national elections on November 4. Mukasey, who has made election monitoring a priority [JURIST report; DOJ fact sheet] for the end of his term, said that to achieve voter confidence, the DOJ must "[communicate] openly with groups interested in the protection of voting rights and with the state and local officials primarily responsible for administering our elections." AP has more.

Similar challenges in Maryland, New Jersey, and Florida [JURIST reports] to the legality of paper-free voting systems have been unsuccessful. The reliability of electronic voting machines drew national attention as the source of delays [JURIST report] in a number of states during the November 2006 elections. Errors with touch-screen-only systems were the basis for several lawsuits filed in Florida regarding vote-tallying irregularities [JURIST report], with a coalition of advocacy groups claiming that officials in Sarasota County failed to investigate or report various alleged malfunctions with the touch-screen voting machines. In December 2006, a draft report [PDF text; JURIST report] from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) [official website] and the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) [official website] concluded that software-dependent electronic voting machines "are not viable for future voting systems" and "in practical terms cannot be made secure." That report endorsed so-called software-independent systems, which do not rely on software alone for vote-tallying and often have a paper back-up system.

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