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Senate OKs voting machine paper trail; Sierra bill to governor


Associated Press  25 August 2004

SACRAMENTO - The Senate on Wednesday revived an effort to require a paper trail to ensure that electronic voting machines aren't tampered with and accurately record voter preferences.

Meanwhile, the Assembly sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a bill that would create a state conservancy to help protect the Sierra Nevada from overdevelopment.

The Senate approved a bill by Assemblyman Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, that would require that all touch-screen voting machines used after Jan. 1, 2006, give voters paper receipts verifying how they voted.

The machines would also have to produce printouts of votes that could be used in a recount.

A 33-0 vote sent the measure back to the Assembly for a vote on Senate amendments.

Strickland's bill was amended in the Senate to impose the voting machine requirements after a paper trail bill by Sens. Ross Johnson, R-Irvine, and Don Perata, D-Oakland, stalled earlier this month in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The Strickland legislation includes language to satisfy Assembly concerns that the state's strapped general fund shouldn't be tapped to pay for any costs associated with implementing the bill.

Sen. Jim Brulte, R-Rancho Cucamonga, said the paper trail requirement should be "mandatory in a democracy where every vote matters."

"Voter fraud is difficult to pick up under the best of circumstances," he said. "With these new touch-screen machines a creative individual can do even more damage to the integrity of the voting process."

Last May, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley barred the use of electronic voting this November in four counties and required machines in 10 other counties to meet a list of 23 requirements.

The Sierra Nevada bill, by Assemblymen Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, and John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, would create a state conservancy headed by a 13-member board that would include six county supervisors from the Sierra Nevada region.

The conservancy would have the power to buy conservation easements and make grants and loans to other public agencies, nonprofit organizations and Indian tribes for a variety of activities, including protecting ranch land and open space and promoting recreation and tourism, in the mountain range.

The Sierra conservancy would join eight other state conservancies, including two that already cover parts of the Sierra or Sierra foothills - the California Tahoe Conservancy and the San Joaquin River Conservancy.

The Assembly voted 54-14 to approve Senate amendments to the bill and to send it to Schwarzenegger. Leslie predicted the Republican governor would sign the bill. Schwarzenegger's office said he hadn't taken a position on the legislation but supported the concept of a Sierra conservancy.

Jim Sayer, president of the Sierra Business Council, said the Assembly's vote was a "victory for the Sierra and for every Californian who depends on the region for water, recreation or even inspiration."

But Assemblyman Bill Maze, R-Visalia, said the conservancy represented a step "down the slippery slope" of having a new group "taking control of areas controlled by federal government and local government."

The Assembly also voted 43-13 to approve a bill by Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco, that would seek a federal waiver to allow the state to buy lower-cost Canadian prescription drugs for state prisons, hospitals and mental health facilities.

Backers say cheaper Canadian drugs could significantly trim the state's $176 million annual drug bill, easing its budget crisis.

But opponents voiced fears about quality and safety of Canadian drugs.

The bill returns to the Senate for a final vote.

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