Thursday, January 04, 2007, 1/04/2007 08:04:00 AM

Trade Secrets and Voting Machines

An interesting editorial from the Palm Beach Post concerning the lawsuit over the disputed election in Florida's 13th Congressional District.

A large number of undervotes on electronic voting machines led to a court contest by Democratic challenger Christine Jennings who lost by only 369 votes in a race where, suspiciously, 18,000 voters registered no choice.

In the suit, Jennings' lawyers wanted to see the source code for the voting machines supplied by ES&S to Martin County where the bulk of the undervotes occurred.

The court ruled against Jennings, but, according to the Post:

"[T]he public needs the courts to err on the side of voters, not trade secrets. Anything less does a disservice to the public and, ultimately, the machine's manufacturer, ES&S, which also makes the machines that Martin County uses. And Judge Gary's ruling relies on circular logic. Ms. Jennings hasn't proven that the touch screens failed. Thus, she can't get what she needs to see whether the touch screens failed."

And: "The company stated in a legal brief that 'ES&S has no interest in this case, other than to protect these trade secrets.' That may be a good legal argument but it is bad public relations. If touch-screen voting is as reliable as ES&S and other manufacturers say it is, the company should welcome rigorous scrutiny, particularly since the court can protect trade secrets."

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