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Voting Technology


California Voter Foundation Support Letter on SB 370 Enclosure:

Legal and court opinions on the voter-verified paper
audit trail and disability access

The Help America Vote Act requires that all voters have the opportunity to cast a secret, independent ballot; it does not, however, require that every aspect of the voting process be equally accessible to everyone.  In 2003, the California Secretary of State sought and obtained a legal opinion on this matter from the United States Department of Justice, which reads, in part:

So long as a disabled person can access and participate in the essentials of a voting system -- such as the ability to cast a ballot in privacy with a full opportunity to review the ballot before casting it -- his opportunity to access and participate in the voting system is sufficiently "similar in kind, quality, quantity, or degree" to that enjoyed by non-disabled persons. The fact that the precise means by which he may access and participate in those essentials differs from those available to non-disabled persons does not deprive him of the "same opportunity" to participate in the voting system -- if it did, no voting system could ever comply with HAVA.

This opinion was issued by the Department of Justice in October 2003 and is available online at  It has not been superceded by any later opinions. 

A federal district court confirmed this interpretation in 2004 after the Secretary of State successfully defeated a legal challenge to his mandate that electronic voting machines produce a voter-verified paper audit trail.  That case, Benavidez vs. Shelley, was decided by federal Judge Florence-Marie Cooper, who ruled in favor of the Secretary of State.  In her decision, Judge Cooper wrote:

“The interest in the Secretary of State in fulfilling his statutory duties and the public interest in accurate, verifiable vote counts outweigh the Plaintiffs’ interest in an unassisted, private vote.”

Judge Cooper’s decision is available online at



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This page was first published on September 1, 2005 | Last updated on January 27, 2006
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