A Berkeley lawyer who has fought electronic voting in California and a half-dozen other states has been tapped by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen as her deputy in charge of voting machinery.

Lowell Finley, co-founder and co-director of the election-integrity group Voter Action, has pulled out of lawsuits against elections officials in California, Florida, Ohio and other states in order to accept a post of deputy secretary of state.

Bowen, who was sworn in Monday, still is figuring out the management structure for the office, but she expects Finley to have a lead role in her promised "top-to-bottom review" of voting systems used in the state, said Chief Deputy Secretary Evan Goldberg.

"She thinks Mr. Finley is an excellent person to help her do that top-to-bottom review," Goldberg said. "He will be the lead person dealing with voting-system technology issues."

Finley, 54, could not be reached Monday night, but the co-director of Voter Action cheered his new job in an open Internet letter to supporters.

"Lowell's appointment to one of the nation's most important state positions, overseeing election standards and voting machine certification for approximately one-fifth of the nation's voters, is a victory for Voter Action, election integrity advocates and voters across the United States," wrote Holly Jacobson.

Finley is a longtime elections lawyer who co-founded the California Political Attorneys Association 15 years ago and handled several redistricting and minority voter access cases before he saw the spread of touch-screen voting machines in his home county and elsewhere in California. Working with Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting.org, Finley sued Diebold Election Systems Inc., claiming the firm made misrepresentations to Alameda County and California to sell its voting machines. Diebold settled the case for $2.6 million.

Finley and Jacobson met as part of a loose network of election-integrity groups during the 2004 elections and collected numerous voter complaints about electronic voting machines. They decided to seek a recount in a small state where there had been problems and chose New Mexico. The state's elections officials denied the recount, and Finley filed a legal challenge. Data discovered in the case suggested that Native American and Hispanic voters using the ATM-like electronic voting machines were not casting votes in many races. This undervote rate, Finley and Jacobson found, was many times higher than among the same ethnic groups voting by paper ballot.

Finley filed a second lawsuit seeking to bar the use of electronic voting equipment in New Mexico as unconstitutional.

"That really was the birth of Voter Action," said Jacobson, who co-founded the group with Finley. "It wasn't about overturning the election results, it was about protecting the future."

They teamed up with high-powered law firms and challenged electronic voting in New Mexico, California, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Jacobson said Finley became a "beacon" to people concerned about security, accuracy and transparency in voting systems.

"Lowell is the kind of person who operates from a place of complete integrity and will always do the right thing," Jacobson said. "He is completely dedicated to showing that elections are secure, accurate and reliable. He's dedicated his life to this, and this position will really give him the opportunity to do that on a much higher level."

Contact Ian Hoffman at ihoffman

@angnewspapers.com or (510) 208-6458.