(CN) – Alameda County must make certain materials available to voters who question election outcomes when electronic machines are used, a California appeals court ruled. It also found a trial court’s award of $875,000 in attorneys’ fees excessive.
The 1st Appellate District Court of Appeal pointed out in its opinion, however, that the injunction is limited in scope to Diebold Accuvote-TS direct-recorded electronic voting machines, which the county stopped using shortly after the contested 2004 vote.
Americans for Safe Access sued Alameda County in an attempt to recount the results of Measure R, which would have loosened limits on growing medical marijuana in Berkeley, Calif. The measure lost by 191 votes.
The ASA demanded a recount and asked to see internal access logs and test reports that it claimed would show whether the electronic voting software was manipulated. It also wanted documents reflecting the chain of custody of electronic data.
The registrar denied that request because he did not consider the documents relevant to the outcome. Instead, the registrar conducted a hand recount of paper ballots, but the outcome did not change.
The ASA sued, and in February 2008, the trial court ordered that all future elections conducted in Alameda County shall produce for public examination relevant election materials “in connection with an election that is the subject of a recount, including audit logs, redundantly stored vote data, complete chain of custody information and all logic and accuracy test reports.”
The appellate court affirmed the injunction in part, “with the provisio that it is to be narrowly construed.”
The trial court also reduced the $1 million in legal fees requested by Santa Monica, Calif.-based law firm of Strumwasser & Woocher’s to $875,000. The firm argued that the amount was justified because of the novelty of the litigation and the fact that the legal ordeal spanned 40 months.
But the San Francisco-based appeals court ordered the trial court to recalculate the amount, and questioned whether the case was as complex as the firm indicated. It also added that the firm had already litigated similar issues in Riverside County.
The court called the fees high “for work involving only the meaning of ‘relevant material.'”