Sarasota Voters Charge Election Officials and Voting Machine Company With Withholding Evidence of Voting Machine Malfunction

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
March 21, 2007 12:00 am

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Voters File New Court Papers in Tallahassee Seeking to Allow Discovery of More Evidence

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Sarasota County voters contesting the 13th Congressional District election filed court papers late yesterday charging that Florida election officials and Electronic Systems & Software (ES&S) apparently misled a judge by claiming that there was no evidence that machine malfunction contributed to the loss of 18,000 votes in that race.

The voters” charge is based on newly discovered evidence of a flaw in the iVotronic systems that created an unusually long delay in capturing votes when voters pressed on the touchscreen machines. An August 15, 2006 memorandum from ES&S warned Florida election officials that the voting machines had a “delay” problem and would not immediately capture votes when voters pressed the screen to indicate their choices.

“It now appears that Sarasota election officials and the ES&S voting machine company misled us and the court,” said Becky Steele, counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, one of the organizations representing the voters. “After last November”s 13th Congressional District election, we asked ES&S and election officials to turn over any evidence of machine malfunction. They asserted repeatedly – both in response to our discovery requests and in court papers – that no such evidence existed. Now, many months later, we discover they appear to have withheld essential information.”

After receiving the ES&S letter, Sarasota Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent and the State Department of Elections continued to use the flawed voting systems. It appears that neither Dent nor ES&S took any action to fix this defect, and did not explain the problem to voters. In fact, Dent placed information in polling places stating that the voting systems were reliable.

In legal papers filed today, the voters ask the Tallahassee trial court to reconsider its December order denying them discovery based on the newly revealed evidence.

The ES&S letter adds to evidence supporting two of the key allegations made in the voters” lawsuit – that there was misconduct and negligence on the part of Florida election officials, and that the voting machines did not work properly during the November elections.

The other organizations representing the voters in the lawsuit are People For the American Way Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Voter Action.

A copy of the August 15, 2006 ES&S letter is online at:

The legal motion filed today is online at: PDfs/032007-MotionForReconsideration.pdf

To learn more about the ACLU of Florida”s voting rights work, go to:

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