LOS ANGELES - The ACLU of Southern California has filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Southwest Voter Registration Education Project v. Shelley. Earlier this month, the ACLU/SC brought suit on behalf of the SVREP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, and the NAACP California State Conference of Branches, alleging that the use of 'punch card' voting machines in the upcoming election would lead to widespread disenfranchisement of voters residing in counties that are still using those machines.
Last week, a federal judge refused to postpone the recall election and the vote on two critical ballot initiatives until all of California's 'punch card' machines could be replaced. Six California counties currently use the outdated machines, which will be replaced, by court order, no later than March 1, 2004.
'This is not merely about a recall election,' said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU/SC. 'This is about having every vote counted. Voting machines are the infrastructure of our democracy. Right now, the integrity of our state's democracy is riding on the performance of these outdated, obsolete, and decertified voting machines - the same voting machines at the center of the 2000 Florida election debacle.'
The ACLU has not taken a position on the recall itself.
'The claims we make in our appeal are as strong today as they were last week, indeed even more so,' continued Rosenbaum. 'If the election goes forward as scheduled on October 7, 2003, we know with certainty that tens of thousands of votes will not be counted.'
The ACLU/SC's lawsuit follows an earlier legal action that resulted in a consent decree requiring California to replace all 'punch card' machines no later than March 1, 2004.
The six counties still using 'punch card' voting machines are: Los Angeles, Mendocino, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Clara, and Solano.
The appeal emphasizes the inclusion of the racially-charged Proposition 54, which would prohibit the state from collecting or retaining racial and ethnic data about health care, hate crimes, racial profiling, public education, and public safety, as particularly troubling, since minority voters will be disproportionately disenfranchised by the defective machinery. People of color (including African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans) constitute 46 percent of the population of the six counties using 'punch card' voting machines, but only 32 percent of the population of counties using other, more reliable types of equipment.
Harvard law professor and noted constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe, and University of Southern California law professor Erwin Chemerinsky have joined the ACLU/SC in filing the appeal.