By PATRICK WALTERS
The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 15, 2006; 10:04 PM
PHILADELPHIA -- Voter advocates filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to stop Pennsylvania counties from using "paperless" electronic voting machines, saying that such systems leave no paper record that could be used in the event of a recount, audit or other problem.
The suit asks the state's Commonwealth Court to decertify machines used in 58 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. The other counties use optical scanning systems, in which voters fill in bubbles on paper forms that are counted in scanning machines; the plaintiffs say such systems should be in use statewide.
"Whatever the initial promise may have been for electronic voting, we now know ... that they are simply not ready for prime time," said Lowell Finley, an attorney with the nonprofit group Voter Action, which has been involved in similar suits nationwide.
The lawsuit alleges that certifying paperless electronic voting machines violates the state's election code and constitution.
A similar lawsuit helped force New Mexico to use optical scan ballots earlier this year, Finley said. Other suits involving paper-based voting systems have been filed in Arizona, Colorado and California.
State officials say the voting machines in use have been carefully scrutinized, and that new electronic voting machines performed well for the most part in the May primary. Residents in all but one county cast ballots using either electronic touch-screens or optical-scan systems for the first time.
The systems have been certified and can reconstruct votes based on computer images, said Leslie Amoros, a spokeswoman for the Department of State.
The plaintiffs, however, claim votes have been lost several times because of computer malfunctions, including in Allegheny and Centre counties during the May primary and in Berks County in May 2005. Other problems could be going undetected, they add.