Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nassau Election Commisssion Lawsuit Sent back to State Court

We’re pleased with U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco’s ruling last week sending Nassau County’s case back to state court where it belongs.

The case, filed in March, seeks to have NY’s Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA) declared unconstitutional for many of the same reasons ETC’s upcoming litigation does: chiefly, the disaster that would be caused for our democracy should the electronic vote-counting systems ordered by ERMA be deployed throughout New York. Defendants had the case moved to federal court, claiming that federal issues were involved.

But Judge Bianco disagreed, saying “Plaintiffs’ claims (1) do not assert a federal cause of action, (2) necessarily raise a substantial question of federal law, or (3) come within the “artful pleading doctrine.” As such, there is no federal jurisdiction over this case, and remand is required.”

The State has repeatedly claimed that federal law, the Orwellian-named Help America Vote Act, forbids continued use of lever voting machines. However, in his ruling, Judge Bianco affirmed what Nassau (and ETC) have been saying: that HAVA does not rule out the use of lever voting machines.

Bianco’s ruling also states, “In short, there is no indication Congress sought to transform all state law claims dealing with the administration of elections or voting systems into federal claims. In fact, the opposite appears to be true given that Congress gave the states a significant amount of discretion as to how to implement HAVA.”

Judge Bianco’s ruling thus correlates with what ETC has said all along: that HAVA does not require that NY abandon its lever voting systems. NY came into compliance with HAVA when ballot marking devices were installed at every polling place to provide increased access for voters with special needs. The full ruling can be viewed here.