Wednesday, June 9, 2004

San Diego County OKs paper ballot plan

By Gig Conaughton, North County Times, June 2, 2004


County officials have completed contract negotiations that will clear the way for local voters to use paper-and-pen ballots in November's elections, they said Wednesday.

County advisers recommended using "optical scan" paper ballots ---- the kind voters fill in with a pen or pencil ---- nearly three weeks ago, shortly after state officials barred the county from using the 10,200 electronic touch-screen voting machines it agreed to buy last year.

But county managers waited to approve the recommendation until they were sure that troubled electronic-voting machine manufacturer Diebold Systems Inc. ---- the company that sold San Diego County its machines ---- would foot the bill for the replacement system.

County officials have maintained for months that Ohio-based Diebold was contractually bound to pay for a replacement system if their machines could not be used.

But they also acknowledged that Diebold had legal grounds to resist providing a replacement system because the county still has not paid the company one cent of the $31 million in state and federal grant money it agreed to pay the company for the banned machines.

On Wednesday, county policy adviser Mikel Haas said the county and Diebold had clarified their contractual terms.

Diebold officials could not be reached for comment.

Haas said that according to the county's agreement, Diebold would pay whatever it cost the county to use an estimated 2 million optical-scan paper ballots this November.

In return, the county has promised not to sue Diebold and to pay a substantial first payment to Diebold ---- roughly $18 million ---- after the Nov. 2 elections, but not until the electronic "TSx" voting machines the county bought from Diebold have been cleared for use by the federal and state governments.


Haas said the county will order the ballots, polling booths and optical scanning machines from Diebold. He said the county hasn't yet decided whether to ask for 40 scanners and have the machines count ballots at a central location after polls close, or whether to request 1,400 scanners that can start counting at individual polling places.

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