Medical marijuana backers file voting suit

January 06, 2005

Eric Kurhi, Berkeley Voice

While the recount for Berkeley's medical marijuana initiative continues, the group that sponsored the measure has filed a lawsuit against the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

At issue are the electronic voting machines used in the Nov. 2 election. While a manual recount is being done for the 29,000 paper ballots submitted, for the 31,500 that were cast electronically, the registrar can only recheck what the computer says the tally is.

'They don't trust the electronic voting machines,' said Elaine Ginnold, assistant registrar of voters. 'They don't believe that electronic ballots can be recounted the way we recount them.'

Hillary McQuie, who is a spokeswoman for plaintiff Americans for Safe Access, said the Diebold machines are not democratic.

'There's no way to triangulate data from the machines,' McQuie said. 'Private companies can say what the vote is, but we have no way of knowing if it's right or not.'

The lawsuit seeks data in the machines that can be compared with the results transferred to the main Alameda County vote-tallying computer. It also seeks comprehensive logs of each transaction on the machine and a list of people who had access to the machine.

'It's not really a recount that they're asking for ... they want an investigation,' Ginnold said.

Measure R would give the city the most lax marijuana laws in the nation by eliminating limits on the number of marijuana plants a patient can grow -- now capped at 10 -- and authorizing medical marijuana collectives to police themselves through a peer review process. It would also have given new medical marijuana dispensaries the right to open without first having a public hearing.

It lost by 191 votes out of more than 50,000 cast, which prompted its sponsor to call for the recount.

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