By Brad Friedman on 12/28/2009, 11:15am PT  

Straight-party ticket voters have long been getting screwed by touch-screen voting systems, whether they knew it or not, in election after election, as the systems have failed in various ways in states around the country for years.

But, for a modicum of good news on that front, finally, last week a panel of federal judges in Dallas County, TX, have responded to a lawsuit from the Texas Democratic Party --- who finally bothered to notice the problem --- by halting the use of such systems until corrective action of some sort can be taken. As the Dallas Morning News reported the county's E&S iVotronic touch-screen voting systems have now been decertified for the moment, leading the chair of the Texas Democratic Party to declare a "victory," even as he went on to demonstrate he still seems somewhat unaware of the overall problems of voting at all on such systems...

A three-judge panel has ruled that Dallas County election officials violated federal law when they did not inform the Department of Justice about changes in the way straight-party votes are counted on electronic voting machines.

The judges determined that the county did not get proper approval from the Department of Justice to use the county's current machines. They granted an injunction requested by the Texas Democratic Party to halt use of the machines in Dallas until they get Justice Department clearance.

The ruling stems from a federal lawsuit filed by the party last year after a close recount favored the Republican candidate in a crucial statehouse race. Democrat Bob Romano lost the District 105 race in Dallas to incumbent Linda Harper-Brown by 19 votes.

The Texas Democratic Party sued Dallas County, claiming that election officials here failed to notify Justice Department officials about "emphasis" votes that don't get counted when people vote straight-party on electronic machines.

Before the county went to iVotronic voting machines in 1998, people who voted a straight-party ticket and then selected a candidate within that party were thought to be emphasizing how much they wanted that particular candidate, and the vote for that person counted.

That changed when the county switched to electronic voting machines. Now, when someone votes straight-party and also selects a candidate in that party, the machine deselects that candidate.

The result is a no-vote in that particular contest.

Many other counties in Texas, and many other states around the country, use the same machines, and have the exact same problem where straight-party voting is still allowed. Almost nobody cares.

Add to that the fact that those who allow the use of such machines, for any type of voting, also don't care that there is absolutely no evidence to verify that any vote ever cast on such a machine, during any election, for any candidate or initiative on any ballot has ever been recorded accurately as per any voter's intent.

But maybe we're just overly picky about the need for such things.

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie issued a statement after the federal judges' ruling, calling it a "victory for Texas voters and their right to cast a vote that counts."

He then went on to demonstrate that he still seems to have little clue how absurd it is that such machines are being used in elections at all --- even after the county and/or company is forced to take some sort of corrective action for the straight-party ticket voting problem:

"Given the likelihood that today's ruling will impact other Texas counties, it is now time for the secretary of state to stop defending the indefensible and require the manufacturers to address the serious defects in the way these machines count straight-ticket votes," Richie said. "Should the secretary of state refuse to act, the Texas Democratic Party will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure these machines count every citizen's vote accurately."

No, Mr. Richie, with all due respect it is time these machines are trashed entirely, since there are no "steps" that exist, absolutely none, that can "ensure these machines count every citizen's vote accurately." If you're unaware of that by now, it's because you're either not paying attention, or you simply don't care.

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