American Lawyer’s AM LAW PRO BONO 100 covered PB partner John McGahren and Caroline Bartlett for their pro bono work done for Stephanie Harris, a New Jersey resident, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora and two public interest organizations, where they challenged Sequoia AVC Advantage and the malfunctioning of its Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines used in New Jersey's 2004 presidential primary election.
Apparently the fourth time was a charm, as Ms. Harris’ vote was finally registered by the touch-screen voting machine—at least that is what an election worker told her. Still, she never received a confirmation that her vote counted, as the DRE—one of over 10,000 machines used during the election—didn’t provide her with a paper record of her vote.
Challenging the DREs' constitutionality on the grounds that they are unreliable and susceptible to hacking, Mr. McGahren and Ms. Bartlett represented Ms. Harris, Assemblyman Gusciora, the Coalition for Peace and the New Jersey Peace Action Coalition, in a lawsuit against New Jersey seeking to have the DRE machines decommissioned throughout the state. Because the DRE machines do not provide a paper record of each ballot cast, it make recounts impossible.
"If Al Franken had lost in New Jersey, he would've been out of luck," Mr. McGahren said, referring to the U.S. Senate candidate whom a Minnesota court has declared the winner of the November 2008 election on the basis of a recount. "It's vital that there's an independent voter paper trail, so [people] know their vote has been directly cast and accounted for," McGahren says.
The trial wrapped up in April, and though both sides are still giving post-trial briefings, Mr. McGahren expects a decision by November.