Huge Pennsylvania Supreme Court Decision and What it Means for Pennsylvania Voters

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sat, 12/20/2008 - 3:28am.

The ruling on Tuesday of this week is just one round in a case that was filed more than 2 years ago.  In August of 2006, 25 Pennsylvania voters from diverse parts of the state filed suit against the Secretary of the Commonwealth, alleging that DRE voting systems do not comply with the Pennsylvania Election Code and because of their unreliability and inaccuracy violate the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Immediately after the filing, the Secretary sought to have the suit dismissed, and filed a motion to do so.  After briefing and oral argument, the trial court (known as the Commonwealth Court) issued a 4-3 decision denying the Secretary's motion.  In its opinion, the Commonwealth Court noted the fundamental importance of the right to vote and the right of every Pennsylvania voter  to have her vote counted accurately and securely.

After this interim decision,  known as an  "interlocutory order" which means that the order did not dispose of the case, the Secretary petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the ruling.  Ordinarily, parties can only appeal rulings at the end of the case when the decision is "final."  The parties submitted briefs on the issue of whether the Supreme Court should hear the appeal.  Briefing was over in May 2007 and the trial court action was stayed pending the Supreme Court's decision.  The case has been "stuck" in the Supreme Court since May 2007. The parties could not move forward until the Supreme Court made a decision.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court decided not to hear the appeal of the Secretary.  What this means is that the case re-activates in the trial court and proceeds normally.  The parties will have an opportunity to obtain information from each other known as "discovery."  They will take depositions and seek documents.  When that is finished, there will either be a trial or perhaps motions for the court to make a decision if the facts are not disputed. 

The decision is significant because it clears the way for evidence to be presented in a public forum on these voting systems.  There have been very few cases in which evidence of the unreliability and inaccuracy of these systems has actually been produced.  Because 50 out Pennsylvania 67 counties use the machines challenged in the lawsuit, the case has enormous implication for Pennsylvania voters.  The allegations in the complaint relate specifically to Pennsylvania law and its requirements for electronic voting systems.  Plaintiffs allege that the Secretary certified machines that don't comply with Pennsylvania law and that its certification process is inadequate to detect flaws in these systems.  If the court agrees with plaintiffs, DREs may not be able to be used in Pennsylvania. 

 Marian K. Schneider - December 19, 2008 - source OpedNews

Marian K. Schneider of Berwyn, PA has 21 years experience practicing law. She currently practices employment law on behalf of employees and litigates commercial disputes. In 2004, she trained more than 200 pollwatchers and was a member of the Kerry-Edwards Election Protection team on Election Day. In December 2005, she helped to organize a non-partisan election integrity group called the Chester County Coalition for Voting Integrity. The Coalition was instrumental in convincing the Board of Elections to acquire a paper ballot system with optical scan tabulation. Ms. Schneider received her J.D. from the George Washington University in 1987 where she was a member of the Law Review. She earned her B.A. degree cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984. Ms. Schneider has been integral in bringing the state-based Pennsylvania case to fruition and its recent successful ruling. She works with activists throughout the state to supply county specific election information and to press for reform. Recently, she worked with Advancement Project in advance of the 2008 election on voter protection issues in Pennsylvania.

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sat, 12/20/2008 - 3:28am.