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Clinics

Con Lit Clinic Files Appeal in Voting Rights Case

This article appears in the Fall 2011 CLINIC NEWS.

The Con Lit Clinic filed an appeal in July in its lawsuit challenging paperless computerized voting machines. The case was the first of its kind in the nation, and has been replicated in four other states. The clinic has argued, with the help of the world’s top computer security experts, that computerized voting machines easily can be hacked. Experts were able to hack New Jersey’s voting machines in under seven minutes, where they installed an undetectable computer program that could steal votes for perpetuity.

The Clinic also was instrumental in getting legislation passed in New Jersey that requires all voting machines to be auditable, and to produce a voter verified paper ballot. Unfortunately, the state has ignored the legislation.

After two trials, the Superior Court of New Jersey issued a ruling that acknowledged that computerized voting systems are vulnerable. The court did not however, issue the relief requested by the plaintiffs—specifically, the decommissioning of all vulnerable voting machines. The court ordered the state to take remedial measures to safeguard the voting machines, and retained jurisdiction over the case to ensure that the state took appropriate safety precautions. The state has missed multiple deadlines. The court signed a final order and judgment on June 6, 2011, two years after the end of the last trial. The Clinic appealed in July.

Clinical Professor Penny Venetis, who developed the case and has been handling it for six years, is hopeful the clinic will succeed on appeal and that safer voting machines will be in place by the 2012 election. “This case has been considered by the Appellate Division twice already. Each time, we have been victorious,” Venetis said. “The right to vote is the most fundamental of all our civil liberties. We hope that the Appellate Division will acknowledge that the only appropriate remedy in this case is to replace the vulnerable voting machines with ones that can be checked and double checked to make sure they are not stealing votes.”