San Diego Co. Voter Sues for Emergency Paper Ballots, Counted in a Timely Manner
On Monday October 30, 2006 San Diego County voter Kathy Peterson filed a lawsuit directly with the California Court of Appeals, seeking a writ of mandamus compelling Registrar of Voters Mikel Haas to do his job: to treat the ballots of all voters with equal dignity and respect as required by both the US Constitution as well as the California Constitution. Specifically, Haas' office has announced an intention to not even start counting paper ballots until Thursday, two full days after the election, whenever those paper ballots are the ones requested by voters at polling places in order to avoid voting on DREs with their invisible ballots and secret vote counting. (At least a large chunk of absentee ballots on paper will be counted on election night along with DRE or touch screen votes)
Ms. Peterson is represented by Carlsbad attorney Ken Simpkins, who has also served the cause of democratic elections along with attorney Paul Lehto in the election contest involving the 50th Congressional District in California, the Busby/Bilbray race to replace imprisoned former Congressman Duke Cunningham.
Asked for comment, Ms. Peterson stated "there's no cause for any form of voting to be discriminated against with late counts and second class service, particularly when it's the only visible, indelible, transparent form of voting we have: paper ballots. The whole idea that the professionals in charge of voting in San Diego County would institute touch screen electronic voting and thereby make the vote counting secret and invisible, and then go even further and retaliate against those forms of voting that the public can in fact see and verify, and where the votes are not so easily changed, is outrageous. When it comes to voting and ballots there are no second class citizens, but the ROVs office is acting like there are. Until learning about this recently, I certainly thought that Registrar's office would be reminding the public and teaching the public about the importance of treating all voters' ballots equally."
Supplemental to the main cause for relief, the lawsuit asks that the polling locations notify voters in writing or verbally of their option for "paper or plastic": Either a paper ballot or an invisible touch screen ballot. Whether this option exists in any given jurisdiction or state and whether it will be advertised at all or announced will vary from place to place. Check with your local voting office regarding options in your jurisdiction.
The lawsuit, set for expedited decision prior to the election and served on the defendants on Monday as well, seeks additional relief to guarantee an adequate supply of "emergency" paper ballots, which are required by a California order of the Secretary of State to be available to any voter upon request, as well as for distribution to all voters in the event of a meltdown or other voting machine breakdown. Preliminary indications are that absentee ballots, another "paper ballot" option, are being requested in far higher numbers than in the most recent off year federal election in 2002.
As its third and final form of relief requested, the lawsuit requests a peremptory writ regarding "sleepovers" of electronic voting machines, seeking appropriate security logs and precautions to be instituted, since the Registrar of Voters has failed completely to secure the machines, apparently preferring plausible deniability of scattering the voting machines to innumerable volunteers for one to two weeks over the accountability