Sarasota Voters File Pleadings Opposing Attempt By Supervisor of Elections to Compromise Election Evidence

SARASOTA, Fla. – Lawyers representing Sarasota voters who filed an election contest in the 13th Congressional District race today asked Florida’s First District Court of Appeal to preserve evidence – the ES&S iVotronic voting machines used in last November's election as well as related data and configuration evidence – in the face of efforts by Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent to alter or sell the machines. 

Additionally,  counsel for the voters filed a pleading late yesterday in Leon County Circuit Court opposing Supervisor Dent’s attempt to bypass voters’ legal rights by clearing the machines for an upcoming March election, thereby compromising the integrity of the evidence.

“It is important that the upcoming election be held in a fair manner, but clearing the voting machines for another election without considering the implications could undermine the voters’ rights to a fair trial,” said Rebecca Harrison Steele, an ACLU of Florida attorney representing the voter plaintiffs. “The voters deserve to know that their vote counted – and to ensure that, we must have adequate access to untainted evidence.”

Both actions respond to the last-minute motion filed  by Dent late on Friday that seeks to use the voting equipment for the upcoming March election in Sarasota County , thus destroying critical evidence needed for the courts to investigate the undervotes that marred November’s election.  Dent’s motion also asks for approval to make immediate plans to sell the voting machines.

“It is unacceptable for Kathy Dent to destroy evidence that could tell us exactly what went wrong in Sarasota last November,” PFAW Foundation Florida Legal Counsel Reggie Mitchell said. “Her timing – waiting until the last minute when she's had months to find another solution – also raises serious questions about her commitment to Sarasota County's voters.”

“The fundamental issue at stake here is whether or not we are going to protect the integrity of the elections process,” said John Bonifaz, consulting attorney for Voter Action. “If the county destroys critical evidence in this case it would undermine the public confidence in voters’ ability to seek relief in the courts.”

The voting machines are currently sealed as evidence in the ongoing lawsuits by both Sarasota voters and Christine Jennings. Allowing the machines to be used before the lawsuit concludes could compromise their integrity and amount to tampering of evidence by the SOE, lawyers said.

The motion filed today in the District Court of Appeal can be read online at:

http://www.aclufl.org/pdfs/Legal%20PDfs/DentDCA-012407.pdf

http://www.aclufl.org/pdfs/Legal%20PDfs/DentDCA_Appendix-012407.pdf

The motion filed today in the Circuit Court can be read online at:

http://www.aclufl.org/pdfs/Legal%20PDfs/DentCircuit-012407.pdf

On November 21, 11 voters filed an independent suit in Tallahassee (Leon County Circuit court case 2006-CA-2996) asking a state court to overturn the certification of the most recent 13th Congressional District election and order a revote.  The group of voters, which includes Republicans, Democrats and No Party Affiliation voters, is represented by the nonpartisan voter advocacy groups Voter Action, People For the American Way Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the ACLU Foundation of Florida.

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