"County sues official over voting machine rules." San Diego Union Tribune (Ed's occasional clipping service)

From: Edmund R. Kennedy <ekennedyx_at_yahoo_dot_com>
Date: Wed Dec 19 2007 - 09:46:23 CST

County sues official over voting machine rules

By Craig Gustafson
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
December 19, 2007
The
county is suing California Secretary of State Debra Bowen over
conditions she placed on the use of voting machines in the Feb. 5
presidential primary.In August, Bowen severely restricted the use of
touch-screen voting machines in San Diego and 19 other counties, citing
an independent review that found machines made by three manufacturers
could be easily manipulated. She also laid down a number of conditions
that affect other more traditional voting machines.
The lawsuit
filed yesterday in San Diego Superior Court centers on a specific
requirement that could force the county to count by hand 10 times as
many ballots as state law calls for.
Bowen also has required
voting machine vendors to pay for the hand count, but many, including
the county's vendor, Ohio-based Premier Election Systems, are balking.
Premier was formerly Diebold Election Systems.
The result could be taxpayers picking up the tab, which could be millions of dollars.
The
lawsuit – and any potential court decision – probably will have no
effect on how people cast their votes in the primary. It mainly focuses
on the logistics for auditing the results.
Timothy Barry, senior deputy county counsel, said Bowen is overstepping her bounds by requiring a tally beyond state law.
Bowen's office could not be reached for comment.
The
county is asking a judge to declare the requirement void. No hearing
has been scheduled, but Barry expects one by late January.
According
to state law, election officials hand-count results for 1 percent of
all precincts to ensure voting systems worked properly.
Under
Bowen's requirement, election officials would conduct a manual tally of
10 percent of randomly selected precincts for any contest where the
margin of victory on election night is less than one-half of 1 percent.
Deborah
Seiler, the county's Registrar of Voters, said the logistics of Bowen's
requirement make little sense. Using the results from election night –
when typically only 80 percent of ballots have been tallied – to
determine whether a hand count is required would lead to unnecessary
work, Seiler said.
In June 2006, eight contests were within
one-half of 1 percent on election night. After all ballots were
tallied, the margin grew in three cases.
Under Bowen's scenario, the registrar would have needlessly hand counted precincts in those three contests, Seiler said.
“Let us count once before we count twice,” she said.
The
vast majority of voters will use paper ballots at the county's polling
places because of Bowen's ruling on touch-screen machines in August.
The paper ballots will be collected countywide and taken to the
Registrar of Voters' office in Kearny Mesa to be counted.
The paper ballots will be tallied by optical-scan machines, which also must meet Bowen's requirements.
Each
of the county's polling places still will house one touch-screen
machine exclusively for disabled people, per Bowen's ruling.
The
state became the epicenter in the debate over electronic-voting
machines in July when a report by UC Berkeley researchers showed that
machines from three manufacturers – Diebold, Hart InterCivic and
Sequoia Voting Systems – could be manipulated. In some cases, it could
be done using ordinary office tools and limited computer knowledge.
A week later, Bowen decertified all three machines, then recertified them with certain restrictions.
Her decision continued the county's roller-coaster ride with voting machines.
The county signed a $31 million deal with Diebold in 2003 to provide 10,200 touch-screen machines.
Then
the state decertified those machines after a disastrous March 2004
county primary. A battery problem with a key machine component forced
more than one-third of the county's polling places to open late. Some
voters could not return later in the day.
It took two years to recertify the touch-screen machines. They were used last year with no major problems.
Craig Gustafson: (619) 293-1399; craig.gustafson@uniontrib.com

-- 
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Received on Mon Dec 31 23:17:06 2007

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