Election Reform Activist Sues Texas Secretary of State to Compel Examination of Electronic Voting Systems' Software

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An election reform advocate in Texas is challenging the statement of a top election official that electronic voting systems are "faster, easier, and more secure." The Texas Secretary of State is being sued for failing to follow a Texas Election Code law that mandates periodic examination of voting systems' software to determine that no changes have been made to the software either in error or by malicious intent.

Thomas Manaugh, PhD, an election reform advocate in Texas, filed a lawsuit with the Texas Supreme Court earlier this month. The suit petitions the court to issue an emergency writ of mandamus to compel the Texas Secretary of State to examine software used in electronic voting systems in Texas.

Manaugh claims that the Secretary of State has not examined software actually used in elections to verify that the software has not been altered from originally certified versions. Those examinations are required on a periodic basis, but, according to Manaugh, they have never been performed, even though a 1987 law that is part of the Texas Election Code requires them.

Other lawsuits have been filed by citizens in New Mexico, California, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania that challenge various aspects of the purported reliability and transparency of electronic voting systems. Manaugh’s lawsuit is the first citizen-initiated lawsuit in Texas to challenge how a state elections official has acted to protect the integrity of elections when electronic voting systems are used.

Roger Williams, the present Texas Secretary of State, has appeared in TV spots to promote electronic voting as "faster, easier, and more secure." Manaugh claims Williams' glowingly positive assessment about election security is neither realistic nor supported by any evidence.

Manaugh questions the idea that electronic voting systems can actually be said to secure if nobody ever checks the software to see that it is the same software that was originally certified. Instances of use of uncertified software in other states (including Georgia, Indiana, and California), according to Manaugh, underscore the need for elections officials to follow the law by inspecting the software that is being used. The ultimate danger is that elections outcomes could be affected if software has been altered either in error or by malicious intent.

The petition has been assigned case # 06-0346 at the Texas Supreme Court. A copy of the petition can be viewed at http://manaugh.googlepages.com/home.

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Thomas Manaugh

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