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ATM-style voting booths likely to be back this fall
Elections chief and county near deal to give voters choice between electronic or paper balloting

By Darrell Smith
The Desert Sun
July 14th, 2004
Riverside County’s voters will use electronic touch- screen voting machines and have the option of using paper ballots in November’s election in a deal that could come as early as today.

"We’re shooting for (Wednesday)," said county counsel William Katzenstein. "It’s very close."

Full details of the agreement with the Secretary of State’s office were not released Tuesday, but Katzenstein said:

Riverside County will augment its 4,250 Sequoia Voting Systems voting machines with paper ballots, at the voters’ choice, equal to at least 25 percent of the number of expected voters in the Nov. 2 election.

Nearly 273,000 voters cast ballots in the March 2 primary election 41 percent of Riverside County’s registered voters.

The Secretary of State’s office would reimburse Riverside County for the cost of providing paper ballots and abiding by other requirements contained in the agreement.

One of Riverside County’s chief concerns, elections officials have estimated the cost of providing paper ballots could exceed $1 million, though actual costs still are unknown.

San Bernardino County which also uses Sequoia machines reached a similar agreement in time for the November vote, its Board of Supervisors announced Tuesday.

"This is good news for the voters of San Bernardino County," said board chairman Dennis Hansberger. "Voters will be allowed to continue using a system in which they have shown a high level of confidence with the endorsement of the state’s chief elections official."

Riverside County and San Bernardino County, along with two other northern California counties and disabled advocates, had been locked in a lawsuit with the state over Secretary of State Kevin Shelley’s April 30 decision to decertify the state’s touch screens until stringent security measures were met.

Problems with touch screens at polling places across the state during the March election led to Shelley’s decision.

Riverside County was among those arguing the measures were redundant, unnecessary and deprived disabled voters of the ability to cast secret ballots.

But a federal court judge last week upheld Shelley’s decision citing public interest in a secure vote this November adding teeth to the April 30 ruling.

"All indications are that they’re going to work with the Secretary of State toward recertification," said Secretary of State spokeswoman Carol Dahman on Tuesday.

The news came as Riverside County leaders face new questions in a letter from residents who have called the touch screens into question, saying screen provider Sequoia Voting Systems and the county’s outgoing registrar of voters Mischelle Townsend have misled county leaders and have stonewalled those seeking answers to questions about the e-voting system.

"(V)otes should be counted correctly, should be seen to be counted correctly," the letter read. "(T)his process should not be dependent on ‘trust’ or other intangibles."

The six-page letter addressed to Riverside County Executive Officer Larry Parrish and signed primarily by county Democratic, Green, Libertarian and Peace and Freedom Party leaders and representatives of the League of Women Voters, calls for public observation of the county’s elections process.

"No one can be trusted to conduct elections and vote-counting in secret, no matter how trustworthy they are," the letter continued.

The letter also contained a 47-point request seeking documents including those relating to voting machine software and hardware, types of errors not detected in pre-election testing and security concerns.

It’s not clear if county officials will answer the questions specifically, Ray Smith, an analyst with Riverside County’s executive office, said.

But Smith said Riverside County continues to defend their machines.

"They’re a very effective, efficient system that’s worked very well and one we’ll use in November."

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