Second Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza ruled Wednesday that the state Office of Elections cannot use electronic voting machines or transmit election results over the Internet or telephone lines until the new methods have first gone through administrative rule-making.
Joy Brann, one of five Maui voters who sued the state, welcomed the ruling. She said she is not against electronic voting, but believes there should be precautions. She became concerned following the controversy about the count of the 2000 presidential election and the subsequent Help America Vote Act.
But she said her concern was not whether a Democrat or a Republican is elected, but that "people need to be certain that who we elected is who will win."
A spokesman for Chief Elections Officer Kevin Cronin said there would be no comment until the office receives the written order. Cardoza indicated that could take a couple of weeks.
Lance Collins, who represented the five Mauians, had asked last July for a declaratory ruling and an injunction against electronic voting. In August, Cardoza commended the plaintiffs for their "active participation in government" but declined to enjoin the machines' use so soon before the coming elections.
The state argued that adoption of the new methods did not need to go through rule marking, with its public notice and hearings. Cardoza said Wednesday that it did.
Collins said that although the legal requirements for rule
making might compress the process to within a few months, he believes it will take the Office of Elections longer, perhaps a year.
"Voting is the bedrock of a democratic society," Collins said when the action was filed. "The desire to use the latest technologies cannot override requirements for orderly and secure vote counting procedures."
Brann said she will offer her testimony when the public hearing is held. Among her recommendations will be:
* A requirement for a paper ballot to ratify the electronic totals.
* A mandatory manual recount using the paper backup ballots of a random selection of at least 3 percent of the votes cast.
* Publicly financed exit polls. She said exit polls are "not provable, but we know they are very close to the actual vote."
"We need a reliable backup procedure," she said.
Electronic voting could save the state money, and Brann said she knows people also want to learn the outcome quickly.
She said, however, she is willing to wait in order to get a result that can be trusted. She pointed out that the people of Minnesota are still waiting for the final result of their senatorial election last November, although in that election the problems were not connected with electronic totals but with challenged individual ballots in an extremely close vote - the difference was a few hundred out of millions.
The other plaintiffs are Robert Babson Jr. and Ann Babson, Paula Brock and Daniel Grantham. They financed the lawsuit themselves with donations from other concerned voters, Brann said.
* Harry Eagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff Writer Lila Fujimoto contributed to this report.