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NJ Appeals Court Reinstates Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of Electronic Voting Machines

February 09, 2006 – 
The New Jersey Appellate Division announced today its agreement with concerns raised by the Constitutional Litigation Clinic at Rutgers School of Law–Newark that all electronic voting machines used in New Jersey may violate New Jersey’s Constitution and election laws.

In its decision, the Appellate Division reinstated a lawsuit filed by the clinic in 2004 that challenges the ability of New Jersey’s electronic voting machines to count votes accurately, in compliance with voting rights laws. The Court reinstated the lawsuit even though, as a result of judicial and legislative efforts led by the clinic, all voting machines in the state must be equipped with a voter verified paper ballot component by 2008. The Court was concerned with protecting the hundreds of millions of votes that would be cast on voting machines between now and 2008. The Court also expressed its concern that the Attorney General’s office would use a loophole in the statute and issue waivers to the 2008 voter verified paper ballot requirement – further jeopardizing the franchise.

The lawsuit is the first in the nation to successfully challenge electronic voting machines. Professor Penny Venetis, associate director of the clinic and lead counsel on the case, commented, “This shows that our courts take very seriously their role in protecting our most fundamental of all rights – the right to vote. Despite clear evidence that New Jersey’s voting machines are insecure, the other branches of government failed to take appropriate action. That is why the Court stepped in,” Venetis added.

The same voting machines used by almost all of New Jersey’s five million registered voters have been found too insecure to use and have been de-commissioned by California, Ohio, Nevada, and New York City. New Jersey does not check the software of electronic voting machines to determine whether they have been tampered with or whether they are faulty. 

The Rutgers clinic filed the suit on behalf of the Coalition for Peace Action, a citizens group based in Princeton that has been in the forefront of advocating for safe, transparent and auditable elections, as well as voter Stephanie Harris, a farmer whose vote was lost by a malfunctioning Mercer County electronic voting machine. Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include State Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, an early proponent of the voter verified paper ballot.