Tuesday, October 5, 2004

E-voting doubts surface -- Group urges use of absentee ballots in counties with electronic systems

By Lori Aratani, San Jose Mercury News, October 5, 2004

Yesterday the California Voter Foundation issued a news release urging voters who live in e-voting counties to request and vote a paper absentee ballot.

Here are excerpts from today's San Jose Mercury News story:


Citing a lack of confidence in electronic voting systems, a non-partisan voting group is urging voters in Santa Clara, Alameda and eight other California counties to use absentee ballots to cast their votes next month.

``Our advice is to cast your ballots on paper,'' said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation. ``Every voting system needs to be protected against manipulation and error, and with an electronic system the voter has to depend 100 percent on secret software produced by private companies that can't be verified.''

The foundation said that people who want to ensure their votes are counted on Nov. 2 should vote by mail or drop off their absentee ballots at the polls on Election Day.

About 30 percent of California voters live in counties that will use electronic voting systems. Santa Clara, Alameda, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino are the largest. Merced, Napa, Plumas, Shasta and Tehama also will use electronic systems.

In Santa Clara County, where touch screen machines were used in the March primary, there were no reported problems with the electronic voting system.

``We feel very secure with the system,'' said Elma Rosas, a spokeswoman for the Santa Clara County registrar's office. ``Our electronic voting system is safe.''

Even so, Rosas encourages voters to choose the voting method with which they are most comfortable.

``Whatever system makes our voters feel more comfortable -- whether it's touch screen or absentee -- that's what we want them to use,'' she said.

A spokeswoman for California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley said that office has taken special precautions to ensure the electronic voting systems are safe and accurate.

For example, counties using electronic voting machines in November's election have agreed to special conditions, including monitoring by the secretary of state's office as well as a new program for poll-worker training on electronic-voting machines. Voters in those counties can also choose to use paper ballots that will be made available in addition to the electronic voting machines. But CVF's Alexander said it's important for voters to check with their registrar for information on whether those votes are considered ``provisional ballots,'' rather than regular votes. It is not clear how they will be considered in Santa Clara and Alameda counties.

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