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Federal court rules for TDP in voting machine case

I’m a little surprised by this.

A three-judge panel has ruled that Dallas County election officials violated federal law when they did not inform the Department of Justice about changes in the way straight-party votes are counted on electronic voting machines.

The judges determined that the county did not get proper approval from the Department of Justice to use the county’s current machines. They granted an injunction requested by the Texas Democratic Party to halt use of the machines in Dallas until they get Justice Department clearance.

The ruling stems from a federal lawsuit filed by the party last year after a close recount favored the Republican candidate in a crucial statehouse race. Democrat Bob Romano lost the District 105 race in Dallas to incumbent Linda Harper-Brown by 19 votes.

The Texas Democratic Party sued Dallas County, claiming that election officials here failed to notify Justice Department officials about “emphasis” votes that don’t get counted when people vote straight-party on electronic machines.

I’m surprised because I’d forgotten that there was still a suit pending. The last word I had recall on this was of a TDP-filed lawsuit that had been tossed, with no further appeals pending. But that suit dealt only with the HD105 recount; there was a second suit filed that was about the larger issue of the machines in general. I still say that the matter isn’t that confusing, at least based on my own eSlate experience last year, but it’s certainly plausible to me that a change in the interface could have been made in Dallas without all the proper legal hoops being jumped through. And there is room to make it more clear to a voter what is happening when they act this way, to really avoid any confusion. I’m not sure how this might affect Harris County next year, but it’s something to watch out for. A statement from the TDP regarding the ruling is beneath the fold.

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie issued the following statement regarding today’s ruling by a three judge federal panel in the Texas Democratic Party’s suit against Dallas County. The TDP brought this suit because electronic voting machines used in Dallas County were programmed in a way that counted straight ticket votes improperly, and the effect of that change was not properly described and submitted to the Department of Justice for pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act. It is likely that today’s ruling will impact other counties that use electronic voting machines that are not programmed to count straight ticket votes properly.

“Today’s Federal Court ruling is a victory for Texas voters and their right to cast a vote that counts.

“Given the likelihood that today’s ruling will impact other Texas counties, it is now time for the Secretary of State to stop defending the indefensible and require the manufacturers to address the serious defects in the way these machines count straight ticket votes. Should the Secretary of State refuse to act, the Texas Democratic Party will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure these machines count every citizen’s vote accurately.”

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