Sunday, April 10, 2005

Law Suit Filed Re: Snohomish Voting Machines

Published: Friday, April 8, 2005

A contract between Snohomish County and a private firm is unconstitutional,
two Everett men argue in court action.

By Jerry Cornfield
Herald Writer

SEATTLE - Two Everett men filed suit Thursday to void the contract between Snohomish County and the maker of its electronic voting machines, claiming the deal illegally shifts control of vote counting from the public to a private company.

Paul Lehto and John Wells allege in their suit that the contract between Snohomish County and Sequoia Voting Systems violates the U.S. Constitution by altering the right of citizens to an open and transparent election.

The Democratic and Republican parties shield information that would prove the ballots are tabulated exactly as they were cast, insisting the data is a trade secret.

"Who's the boss is the issue," said Lehto, an attorney. "A private party controls the election for Snohomish County, and the government has to do what it says, and that's not right.

The Constitution does not allow government to set up systems that are uncheckable."

Lehto and Wells filed the suit in King County to avoid having Snohomish County Superior Court judges handle a case that affects their employer.

Snohomish County Auditor Bob Terwilliger said late Thursday that he had not seen the lawsuit. He said he has spoken with Lehto in the past and fulfilled his requests for public information.

John Gideon of VotersUnite!, a national nonpartisan organization that monitors elections and the performance of electronic voting machines, welcomed the suit.

The machines "are not transparent. Votes are counted by software, and that software is kept secret from anyone who is not an employee of Sequoia," he said.

"The citizen has no idea what happens to that vote after they put it into the machine."

Snohomish County signed a $5 million contract in July 2002 to buy 1,000 machines from Sequoia, according to the suit.

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