County may buy 5,000 paper printers to verify electronic votes by 2006
NC Times. 08 June 2005. By: DAVE DOWNEY - Staff Writer
RIVERSIDE The county expects to pump at least $15 million into elections next year, more than twice as much as it spent for that purpose in the fiscal year that is rapidly drawing to a close.
The increase is being driven largely by a state mandate to produce paper records of electronic votes for the first time in 2006, and by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to hold a statewide special election this fall on initiatives that aim to reform state government.
The county Board of Supervisors gave preliminary approval this week for an $8.2 million Registrar of Voters budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 that covers salaries for the registrar's 42 employees and maintenance for its 4,250 electronic voting machines and other equipment. That budget includes a $1.7 million reserve for the June 2006 statewide primary. Moreover, Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore made it clear Monday in the county's annual budget workshop that she soon will be back with requests for at least $7 million more.
That compares with the $7 million the registrar is expected to have spent in this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The supervisors are scheduled to adopt a final budget for the upcoming year on June 28.
Dunmore said she will recommend later this summer, possibly in July, that the county commit an additional $6.3 million to $6.5 million to buy 5,100 printers that can be attached to touch screens, to give voters the opportunity to inspect paper printouts of their electronic votes.
Dunmore said she also anticipates returning with a request sometime this summer to cover the county's expense of holding the special election. If held in conjunction with the county's planned Nov. 8 election, the cost will be $700,000, she said. If Schwarzenegger calls for a stand-alone election later in the fall, the cost is expected to reach $2.3 million.
State law says counties with electronic touch-screen machines must obtain paper backup devices by January 2006.
The mandate for paper printers is a result of growing skepticism in California and around the nation stemming from the potential for tampering with computer voting systems and of widespread support for printers that provide a way to independently verify whether electronic votes are recorded accurately.
To comply with the mandate, Dunmore is preparing to submit a request for the purchase of VeriVote printers designed for the type of voting machine Riverside and several other counties use. The device is made by Oakland-based Sequoia Voting Systems.
The device was certified by the federal government in May, she said, but still needs to be approved for use in California by the secretary of state. Dunmore said that state certification is anticipated in July.
To date, only the type of printer designed for voting machines used in San Bernardino and Santa Clara counties has been approved, she said.
Dunmore said she is proposing to buy more printers than voting machines so she can stock each polling place with an extra printer. Dunmore said that strategy is designed to prevent a voting backlog when there is a need to change the paper tape on a particular printer.
Through clear plastic screens, voters could view paper copies of their electronic votes before formally casting ballots. If there was a discrepancy, for example, a voter could make changes, then cast his or her ballot.
Voters would not, however, be able to take printouts home as receipts. Rather, the paper records would be stored and consulted if a recount was requested.
If ordered by July, the new paper printers would likely arrive in Riverside County by December or January, she said.
The so-called voter-verified paper trail, something Nevada tried out in the November 2004 presidential general election, will not be available for Riverside County voters this fall. The paper printers are supposed to be in place for the June 2006 statewide primary.
A bill by Assemblyman John Benoit, R-Riverside, seeks to roll back the January 2006 deadline for obtaining paper printers to January 2008. However, that legislation, AB 369, failed to meet a legislative deadline for a hearing in the full Assembly and cannot be considered until next year.
As a result, said Marion Ashley, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, "We have to plan on moving quickly to get those machines on board."
Dunmore said the county will have to pay for the machines, but may be reimbursed later for its expense with federal grants.
The county has 773,205 registered voters.