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Lawsuit Planned in New Jersey To Stop Use of Electronic Voting

By Tom Zeller Jr.

The New York Times -- With just two weeks remaining before the Nov. 2 presidential election, a coalition of private citizens and local elected officials in New Jersey plan to file a lawsuit on Monday to block the state’s use of electronic voting machines.

At its heart, the complaint -- a draft of which was provided to The New York Times -- will ask the trial-level Superior Court in Trenton to block the use of nearly 8,000 electronic voting machines, because they “cannot be relied upon to protect the fundamental right to vote.”

More than three million registered voters in 15 of New Jersey’s 21 counties are scheduled to use the electronic voting machines, which have been dogged nationwide by concerns over their reliability and fairness. Five New Jersey counties use the old mechanical lever machines, like the ones in use in New York and Connecticut. One New Jersey county uses optically scanned ballots. Most counties also have optical scan machines in place for handling absentee ballots, and the draft lawsuit suggests the expanded use of theseinstead of the electronic machines.

“The right to vote is simply too important to not try to get some sort of court intervention to protect it,” said Penny M. Venetis, a law professor with the Constitutional Litigation Clinic at Rutgers University and the lawyer representing the plaintiffs.

Her complaint holds that the electronic voting machines used in New Jersey provide no means for verifying that they are recording votes properly, and that they are too easy for rogue programmers to manipulate. “There’s just too much at stake,” she said.

Fifteen electoral votes are up for grabs in New Jersey, which traditionally leans toward the Democratic candidate. But according to a late poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, Sen. John Kerry and President Bush remain in a virtual tie in the state.