By Paul Jacobs, columnist for the Californian, published in the North County Times, July 10, 2004
When public officials are sworn into office, they take an oath to defend the constitutions of the state of California and the United States of America. Why, then, would all five Riverside County supervisors defy an order from California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley by filing a lawsuit to defend an unverifiable voting system?
Mischelle Townsend, the county registrar of voters, who is retiring amid a bunch of scrutiny, defends the Sequoia electronic voting machines, claiming that they have worked flawlessly in 29 consecutive elections. Unfortunately, there is no way to verify that the machines have in fact worked flawlessly.
Supervisor challenger Linda Soubirous barely missed a runoff election with incumbent Supervisor Bob Buster by 0.1 percent of the total vote. While a runoff election for a candidate who lost handily by 15 percentage points seems pointless to me, Soubirous' campaign managers raise some intriguing questions regarding some startling irregularities that reportedly occurred during the March 2 vote count.
During a delay in the vote tabulation on that election night, Soubirous' campaign officials allege they witnessed one of two Sequoia Voting Systems employees hunched over the vote tally terminal while votes were being counted. More scandalous is that one of the Sequoia workers was reportedly seen wearing a county employee's ID badge and allegedly used a county employee's password to enter the system. Perhaps their motives were as pure, but the sanctity of our touch-screen voting system is violated with such shenanigans.
At first, I was a big proponent of electronic voting, as it seemed to be the next logical, technological step in our democracy. After the fiasco of the 2000 presidential contest in Florida, it seemed punch cards and butterfly ballots proved far too primitive. But, even then, there was physical data that could have been recounted and verified, if only the courts had made a non-political ruling.
In discussing that embarrassment of democracy with a co-worker, she laughed and said she thought things like that only happened in her native Philippines. Her remark convinced me that we need verifiable safeguards to ensure the integrity of our elections.