Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Chesley leading charge to end punch-card voting




By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati lawyer Stanley Chesley has joined forces with a Washington law firm in lawsuits aimed at doing way with the punch-card voting system that threw the 2000 presidential election into doubt.

        The punch-card system — used in 70 of the 88 Ohio counties including Hamilton, Butler and Warren — with its potential for “hanging chads,” “dimpled” ballots and inaccurate counts, violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution, according to lawsuits filed Tuesday in state courts in Florida and Illinois on behalf of voters in 28 states that use punch card “Votomatic” systems.

Chesley
Chesley
        “If one voter is using a voting system that is defective and another voter is using one that is not defective, then the first voter's rights are being violated,” said Mr. Chesley, who is lead counsel in the cases with attorney Michael Hausfeld of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll.

        The suits ask that the punch-card system be done away with in all 28 states using “Votomatic.”

        The Florida lawsuit names elections officials in all 15 Florida counties where Votomatic punch card systems were in use in the Nov. 7 election.

        The closeness of the election night results in the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore for the presidency led to a contentious, monthlong legal battle over whether punch-card ballots that were not clearly punched through would be counted by hand.

        In the end, the Gore campaign lost its bid for a hand recount when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that hand-counting some ballots in Florida and not others and using different standards for hand counts in different counties would violate the Constitution's equal protection provision.

        “The Supreme Court opened the door for this,” Mr. Chesley said. “This is an equal protection issue.”

        The second lawsuit was filed in St. Clair County, Ill., by voters in 28 states where Votomatic machines are used and names the companies that sell products and services to local election officials where Votomatic is used. One of those companies is in Illinois.

        The suit alleges the companies market and sell Votomatic equipment without warning customers of “serious defects” in Votomatic systems that make the punch card systems incapable of counting votes accurately.

        In Ohio, election officials in many of the counties that use Votomatic systems say they do so because it is less expensive than more high-tech systems, such as the electronic touch pad systems that are used in five Ohio counties and throughout Kentucky.

       



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