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For Immediate Release, Wednesday, July 7, 2004
Kim Alexander, 916-441-2494,
Cindy Cohn, 415-436-9333 x. 108,

Federal Court Rules in Favor of Paper Trail Reform in E-Voting

Los Angeles - A federal judge ruled yesterday that California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's requirements for additional security on electronic voting machines do not violate federal or state law. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, California Voter Foundation,, and Voters Unite! submitted a friend-of-the-court brief and a sur-reply in support of Secretary Shelley. The case is Benavidez v. Shelley.

"This decision is a landmark," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "The court said - in clear, unambiguous terms - that requiring a paper trail for e-voting machines is consistent with the 'obligation to assure the accuracy of election results.' That's an enormous victory."

Judge Cooper wrote that the "defendant's decision to decertify touch-screen voting machines and to withhold further certification until he is satisfied that manufacturers have complied with specified conditions is a reasonable one. It is based on studies conducted and information gathered which convinced him that the voting public's right to vote is not adequately protected by the systems currently in place."

This ruling is particularly significant because Secretary Shelley's e-voting reforms are setting the tone for the national debate on this issue. He was the first state election official to issue a blanket requirement for voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPAT) on e-voting machines, though Nevada later followed suit. On April 30, after further review and a scandal with embattled voting machine vendor Diebold Election Systems, Shelley decertified all of the state's e-voting machines until additional safeguards could be implemented. His responsiveness to the growing evidence of problems in e-voting systems has led to pressure in states like Maryland and Ohio, where similar evidence has been downplayed.

"California is at the forefront of the nationwide movement for e-voting reform," said California Voter Foundation President Kim Alexander. "This court decision reinforces the leadership California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley is bringing to this critical issue." Alexander will discuss the court's decision this evening in San Francisco when she addresses the Commonwealth Club of California.

The suit was brought by disability rights advocates and four California counties (Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern and Plumas) that oppose Secretary Shelley's voter verified paper trail requirement and April 30th decertification orders.

Judge Cooper's ruling concerned the plaintiffs' requests for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order to prevent Shelley's orders from taking effect. The decision is available online at

About the California Voter Foundation:
The California Voter Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to promoting and applying the responsible use of technology to improve the democratic process. For more information about the California Voter Foundation, please visit

About EFF:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression and privacy online. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most linked-to websites in the world at

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This page was first published on July 7 , 2004 | Last updated on January 27, 2006
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