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Activists sue to block replacement of lever voting machines

1/17/2006

The Associated Press

 

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) Activists in Bucks County filed two lawsuits Tuesday to block plans to replace lever voting machines in the 24 counties that use them.

 

State officials say the lever machines must be replaced under the 2002 federal Help America Vote Act, an outgrowth of the balloting problems that plagued the 2000 presidential election, and are working with counties to replace them before the May 16 primary.

 

The plaintiffs in the Commonwealth Court suits maintain that state officials are misinterpreting the federal law and that most of the computerized voting systems certified so far lack voter-verified paper ballots that they say are crucial for potential recounts. They want the court to halt efforts to replace the lever machines until that and concerns about the security of the new systems are resolved.

 

"It's really simple. All we want is a verifiable vote," said Tom Lingenfelter of Doylestown, one of two prospective legislative candidates who filed one of the suits. The other suit was filed by a group called the Coalition for Voting Integrity.

 

State Department spokeswoman Allison J. Hrestak said the five computerized touch-screen systems that have been certified so far all feature internal systems that generate a paper record of the votes cast, which can be retrieved and reviewed if recounts are necessary.

 

Pennsylvania's counties, which administer the state's elections, were supposed to upgrade or replace their voting systems by the end of last year, but have been granted additional time by the State Department.

 

While all 67 counties applied for federal money to help them comply, the state is still in the process of certifying the reliability of voting machines and none of the counties has purchased any equipment or software, Hrestak said. Still, she said, state officials remain optimistic that all counties will have compliant systems in place in time for the primary.

 

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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