The good folks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Grassroots Enterprise have produced an entertaining online movie to inform California voters of their right to cast a paper ballot on November 2.
Under the California Secretary of State's recertification requirements, counties that use touchscreen voting machines must offer voters the option of voting a paper ballot. However, in some counties pollworkers are being instructed to keep this option secret.
So EFF, the California Voter Foundation, Verified Voting and other groups and individuals who support secure and accountable voting systems are working to get the word out and let voters in the ten counties using touchscreen know that they have a right to a paper ballot, and must speak up for it in order to get one.
If you live in Alameda, Merced, Napa, Orange, Plumas, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Shasta, or Tehama county, please pass this to your friends and neighbors.
For more information see Los Angeles Times reporter Seema Mehta's story in the Oct. 25 edition, "Paper Ballot Option an Unofficial Secret.
Santa Clara County poll worker Ed Cherlin thought his job was to help voters, which is why he was so offended when he was ordered not to tell people coming to the polls that they could have traditional paper ballots if they didn't trust computerized voting machines.
"I object to having the government tell me I'm not allowed to tell people about their rights," said the Cupertino resident. "It's obviously unconstitutional and nonsensical."
Barbara Simons, a poll inspector from Palo Alto, says, as Cherlin does, that she was told during a Santa Clara County poll worker training session not to tell voters of the paper option.
"It's a gag rule. It's outrageous," the retired IBM worker said. "I'm shocked that the county would require election volunteers working at the polls to withhold information from voters."
Calls to the Santa Clara County registrar of voters office were not returned Friday.
There have been no known reports of poll workers being ordered not to disclose the paper option in Southern California, but election officials in the three Southland counties where e-voting is used — Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange — said it was up to voters to be informed about their options.
"How we train our poll workers is that people who come into the polls are assumed to be there to vote electronically, and if they would like to vote [with paper ballots], they are required to ask," said Barbara Dunmore, Riverside County's registrar.
Bret Rowley, spokesman for the Orange County registrar, agreed.
"They're there if people ask for them," he said. "It's their choice. They need to ask for paper if they want it, or vote on the electronic system."
E-voting critics say these counties are meeting the letter of Shelley's mandate but not the spirit.
"When voters show up at a polling place, they should be given the option of voting either by paper ballot or touch screen," said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, which advocates voting safeguards. "I can understand why counties would want to limit the burden on poll workers. There could just simply be a sign on the polling place saying you have a right to cast a paper ballot."