Editorial: Casting ideas for better count of votes next time

From: Kaj Telenar <kaj_at_telenar_dot_com>
Date: Mon Feb 18 2008 - 11:43:02 CST

I like their call to work with experts to create an open source solution.


Editorial: Casting ideas for better count of votes next time
Mercury News Editorial
Article Launched: 02/18/2008 01:32:13 AM PST

Ten days after the Feb. 5 presidential primary, nearly 1 million votes -
about 14 percent of those cast in California - were uncounted. Because
Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain won their parties'
primaries by large margins, there's been no crisis and no outcry.

But it could be another matter entirely in November, when an especially
long ballot is expected to further delay vote counting.* *Many counties
like Santa Clara probably won't be able to announce conclusive results
for 15 to 18 hours after the polls close. It will be weeks before the
totals are final - shades of Florida in 2000.

By law, the state has a month after an election to certify results. But
Secretary of State Debra Bowen must do all within her power and the
state budget to cut the wait.

The cause of this month's delays was twofold: the forced conversion in
two dozen counties from electronic voting to paper ballots, and a
substantial increase in voting by mail. Bowen made the right call in
decertifying touch-screen systems because of doubts over reliability and
security. But the time frame for counties like Santa Clara to switch to
paper was too short, and most couldn't buy enough equipment. Machine
breakdowns bedeviled some counties.

Provisional ballots, cast by those who showed up at the wrong precinct,
requiring extra verification, made up 40 percent of uncounted ballots.
But about 600,000 absentee ballots were still uncounted last week,
according to Stephen Weir, Contra Costa County registrar and president
of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials. In Santa
Clara County, where 61 percent of ballots cast were by mail, 80,000
arrived on Election Day. Those were counted within 12 hours; other
counties have been slower.

The February election, with only one candidate race and a few
initiatives, required only one ballot sheet. The June primary will
require two, and the November election, with local, county and state
races, will need three. That means triple the time to process each ballot.

Bowen and county registrars should work together to head off disaster by:

Encouraging absentee voters to mail in their ballots no later than the
Saturday before the election. There should be more drop-off centers and
early voting centers.

Giving counties that switched to paper ballots money for more scanners
and sorters.

Requiring counties to stock enough paper ballots at the polls to avoid
a shortage.

In the long run, the Legislature should allow counties like Santa Clara
to switch to all-mail voting (with regional early-voting centers using
electronic voting machines). And the state should work with computer
scientists to design the next generation of open-source voting machines.

Meanwhile, the state and counties must make immediate changes for June
and November, or we're likely to end up with two very messy elections.

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Received on Fri Feb 29 23:17:07 2008

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