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Touch-Screen Vote Upheld in Calif.

September 8, 2002

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) _ A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California’s first countywide touch-screen voting system.

The decision issued last week by U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson upholds the use of the technology implemented by Riverside County officials and clears the way for other counties to replace outdated equipment, Secretary of State Bill Jones said.

``This is a decision that erases any questions as to the accuracy, validity and accountability of touch-screen voting in California,″ Jones told The Desert Sun.

Riverside County is the only one in the state to go to the touch-screen system, but others are considering it, said Shad Balch, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.

Voters in March approved Proposition 41, which allows the state to issue $200 million in grants so county officials can buy modern voting equipment to replace punch card systems of the type that caused problems in the 2000 presidential election in Florida.

Nine counties are under a federal court order to replace their punch-card equipment by the 2004 presidential election. Many counties have voting machines that date to the 1960s.

Palm Desert resident Susan Marie Weber filed the lawsuit against Riverside County earlier this year, alleging the new system is open to fraud and manipulation. Weber declined to comment on the ruling.

Wilson said the touch-screen machines eliminate the loss of votes due to damaged, mismarked or over-voted ballots, improve access for disabled voters and enable counties to provide ballots in multiple languages.

Riverside County used the machines for the first time in the November 2000 election.

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