Whistleblower lawsuit filed against evoting industry

A federal whistleblower lawsuit has been filed against the e-voting industry, alleging that one companysold electronic voting devices that did not performas promised.

But details about the suit are sketchy because of secrecy rulessurrounding whistleblower litigation, according to Matt Schultz, anattorney at Levin, Papantonio Thomas Mitchell Echsner & ProctorPA, the Pensacola, Fla., law firm that is handling the case.Schultz was assigned to the suit, but the lead attorneys are MikePapantonio and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy, son of the late New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy andnephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, gained attention witha recent story he wrote for Rolling Stone magazine in which hequestioned the outcome of the 2004 presidential election. Thewhistleblower lawsuit is not related to the allegations inKennedy’s analysis.

The lawsuit was filed approximately four weeks ago, but Schultzwas unable to divulge in which federal district the filing tookplace. Nor could he discuss which e-voting machine vendor is targeted becausethe document is currently under seal.

According to Schultz, insiders at one of the four major e-votingvendors in the U.S. have testified to misrepresentations by theunnamed company about the accuracy, reliability and security of thedirect recording electronic (DRE) devices. DRE usually signifies atouch-screen voting system.

The lawsuit is not related to any particular election outcome.”This is about faulty machines being fobbed off on the governmentand being bought with federal money under the Help America Vote Act[HAVA],” Schultz said. Among its other mandates, HAVA stipulatedthat by last January every election precinct in the country had tohave an e-voting system that allowed handicapped voters to castballots unaided.

The suit has been filed under a special legal method called “quitam,” which means that the U.S. Attorney General’s office has theoption to take the case up itself. After the attorney general’soffice decides whether it will carry the suit forward or hand itback, the details can be made public, said Schultz. The U.S.Attorney General’s office had 60 days to review the case, but wasentitled to extend that period under certain circumstances.

If the lawsuit is successful, the defendant would be required topay damages. While no specific dollar figure has been set yet,damages usually include the amount of federal money spent timesthree, and the figure would depend on a variety of factors, saidSchultz.

Proponents of electronically enabled voting devices such astouch-screen or optical systems say the machines can tabulate voteswith much greater accuracy than older punch card ballot systems.The e-voting systems are made by several vendors, including DieboldElection Systems Inc. and Election Systems & Software Inc.

Critics, however, have long argued that electronic devices areunreliable and subject to hacking and, without a paper trail,cannot be properly audited. Those shortcomings leave citizensuncertain about whether their votes will be tabulated properly,according to critics.

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