LOS ANGELES - The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed a federal lawsuit today charging that the use of outdated and obsolete 'punch card' voting machines, the same machines at the center of the controversy surrounding the contested 2000 presidential election in Florida, will needlessly and unlawfully disenfranchise African-American, Latino, and Asian-American voters in counties where such machines are still in use.

Following the contested presidential election of 2000, the ACLU/SC filed suit against the state of California on similar grounds and won. The state then entered into a consent decree, whereby they agreed to replace all 'punch card' voting machines in use by the March 2004 primary election.

'The ACLU of Southern California takes no position on the Governor's recall,' said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU/SC. 'Our interest is in seeing to it that every voter will have his or her vote counted accurately. Most of us are now aware of the problems associated with these voting machines - I don't believe any one of us would like to see a repeat of the Florida presidential election debacle here in the Golden State.'

As many as 8 million voters could be at the mercy of the defective 'VotoMatic' or 'Pollstar' machines. At least six counties in the state (Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Clara, Solano, and Mendocino) are certain to use 'punch card' voting machines if the election takes place on October 7, 2003.

In the November 2000 presidential election, the error rate for the 'punch card' machines was more than double that of any other system used in the state. 'Votomatic' or 'Pollstar' machines accounted for 74.8% of all ballots cast that did not register a vote for president in California.

'If the October election goes forward, we can predict with absolute certainty that every Californian's vote will not count,' said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU/SC. 'Democracy in California should not hang by a chad.'

The ACLU of Northern California and ACLU of San Diego also joined the ACLU of Southern California in filing today's lawsuit.