New Mexico halts purchase of DRE machines

New Mexico: State Halts Purchase of Sequoia Edge

By Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA
January 04, 2006

According to an article in the Albuquerque Journal, Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron has delayed the purchase of 800 Sequoia Edge touchscreen machines that some New Mexico counties had chosen to meet federal accessibility requirments. The machines are subject to a pending motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction .

Lawyers for the Attorney General’s Office advised Vigil-Giron to delay purchase until after a court hearing later this month in Albuquerque, Ernest Marquez, the secretary of state’s elections director, said Tuesday.

Eight New Mexico voters who sued the state in January 2005 filed a motion in December asking state District Judge Eugenio Mathis to block New Mexico’s purchase of more than 800 Sequoia Edge machines. The plaintiffs have argued that touchscreen machines such as the Edge are error prone.

A court hearing is scheduled for January 18th. For more information about the lawsuit visit the VoterAction website.

The state has about $9 million in federal money to purchase one machine for each precinct in state to provide disabled voters with the ability to vote privately and independently as required by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Each of New Mexico’s 33 county clerks were given the choice of three voting machines that had been certified by the state. Fourteen counties, including the largest: Bernalillo, Do–a Ana, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties had chosen the Sequoia Edge.

Initially, Vigil-Giron has only certified two touchscreen options. In November, after pressure from some county officials, representatives of the disabled community, and constituents, she later certified the ES&S AutoMark, a ballot-marking device that provides a similar accessibility interface for disabled voters but records votes by marking an optical scan ballot, rather than recording them electronically.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that optical scan technology is less expensive, more accurate, and less prone to malfunction. The Automark also complies with a state law that will go into effect in 2007, that requires a voter verified paper record of every vote.

Approximately $3 million of the federal money, has been alloted to purchase more than 500 AutoMArks for the 19 New Mexico counties that chose them. The AutoMark is not effected by the pending lawsuit.

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