NM Voter Plaintiffs applaud Governor's decision
Lawsuit remains until the plan is fully implemented.
January 13, 2006, Albuquerque - On Thursday, January 12, 2005, New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson and Attorney General Patricia Madrid demonstrated bold leadership by announcing a plan to make New Mexico an all-paper-ballot voting state. This is a great day for New Mexicans because it means that we will be able to cast our votes with confidence that a mechanism is in place that will allow all votes to be counted and tallied and the results verified.
The Governor said that he will introduce legislation next week, at the beginning of the 30-day 2006 state legislative session that, if adopted, will accomplish two things: 1) it will mandate the use of optical scan paper ballots in all New Mexico elections, and (2) it will provide $11 million in state funding to purchase the necessary voting systems. If the legislation is adopted by the legislature and implemented before the next election, inaccurate, unreliable and insecure electronic voting machines that produce no voter-verifiable and auditable paper record will be a thing of the past.
This Governor’s proposal is a great victory for the many concerned citizens and organizations who have tirelessly advocated the change to paper ballots. And it is a great victory for the plaintiffs in Lopategui v. Vigil-Giron, a lawsuit in which the plaintiffs sought this very result. The lawsuit, filed in January 2005, seeks an injunction barring future use of the same unreliable, paperless electronic voting machines that will be replaced under the Governor’s plan if the legislature adopts it. A catalyst for the Governor’s decision was the Lopategui plaintiffs’ recent and successful effort to temporarily restrain the Secretary of State and county clerks from beginning the purchase of additional unreliable touch screen machines.
New Mexico’s next statewide election is in June, 2006. Thus it is critical that the Governor’s proposal be implemented immediately so that all New Mexico voters will have confidence that their votes and will count and can be verified. For this reason, the Lopategui plaintiffs intend to press forward with their lawsuit, particularly with their efforts to gather evidence needed to obtain judicial relief if the legislature does not adopt the Governor’s plan , or if the statutory changes and funding adopted are too little or too late.
In the Lopategui litigation, Plaintiffs have already obtained critical evidence in discovery about the untrustworthiness of touchscreen voting systems and the serious inadequacy of the Secretary of State’s process for auditing election results. By gathering more evidence through depositions and inspection of voting systems, plaintiffs will be in a position to seek timely judicial relief should the Governor’s plan not be implemented. As soon as New Mexico can assure that all voters, regardless of the color of their skin, where they live, or their physical ability are able to cast their votes on verifiable, auditable paper ballots, plaintiffs will give final, hearty congratulations to Governor Richardson, Attorney General Madrid, and the state legislature for protecting our democracy.
Voter Action is a project of the International Humanities Center. www.voteraction.org