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Registrar retiring to be closer to father-in-law
Townsend says decision to step down not affected by voting controversy

By Trey Clark
The Desert Sun
June 23, 2004
RIVERSIDE COUNTY The woman who initiated the first wave of electronic voting in California is retiring for a life in Pismo Beach.

Mischelle Townsend, Riverside County’s registrar of voters for seven years, said she will leave her post on July 17 so she and her husband can move closer to her father-in-law.

Touch-screen voting in California is currently embroiled in controversy. Secretary of State Kevin Shelley barred new touch-screen machines without a voter-verified paper trail from use in the November election. He also decertified existing computers unless they could add a paper trail or meet stringent security standards. Riverside County is challenging the ban.

The county was also the subject of an inquiry into allegations of vote tampering in the March 2 primary election an inquiry requested by Townsend after she learned of the allegations. The district attorney found no evidence of misconduct.

Townsend said these issues had nothing to do with her decision to leave.

"It’s just the opposite it’s an incentive to stay," she said. "Generally, in situations where policies are being made, controversy seems to be the only constant rather than the exception. I thrive on working through issues like that."

Fifth District Supervisor Marion Ashley also said that Townsend could not be driven away so easily.

"She’s a fighter and wouldn’t back off just because of this," he said. "This is very controversial now, and she’s really handled herself well."

Townsend said she believes electronic voting would be reinstated by the November election.

She and husband Larry Townsend bought a home in Pismo Beach five years ago. The home is close to Larry Townsend’s father, who turns 93 in August.

Townsend said her husband has urged her to retire there with him for the past two years.

"I’ve been negotiating with him, ‘One more election, one more election and we’ll go,’" said Townsend. "But he really wants to move closer to his father, and that’s the best thing for our family right now."

Ashley said Townsend "moved the registrar of voter’s office into the 21st Century.

"She’s a superstar and one of those people you wonder how in the world you can replace," he said. "She led us through 29 straight electronic voting elections without a hitch. I think that will be her legacy."

Although she does not have any immediate plans, Townsend hopes to become a "Renaissance woman" and take some classes that satisfy her interests outside of work.

Townsend spent a total of 34 years working in the public sector 28 with Riverside County.

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