By Scott Vanhorne, Daily Bulletin, October 29, 2004
On Friday, October 22 the California Secretary of State's Voting Systems and Procedures panel gave conditional, limited certification to Sequoia's new VeriVote printer which produces a paper record of digital ballots that voters can verify before leaving the polls. This is the same printing device being used in Nevada this electin season.
The limited certification applies to San Bernardino county, which will use the VeriVote printer in one polling place on November 2. Scott VanHorne's article provides more details about this development.
Some voters at one precinct in Highland will make California election day history on Tuesday.
San Bernardino County plans to debut a voter-verified paper trail on three touch-screen voting machines at Arroyo Verde Elementary School. It will be the first polling place in the state to use the technology on an election day.
Sacramento County used a paper-trail system for early voting in the November 2002 election. All counties that use touch-screen systems are required to have the safeguard in place by the 2006 primary.
Electronic voting critics claim touch-screen systems are ripe for errors partly because people do not see a printout of their votes. Instead, they verify on-screen ballots before submittal.
"Honestly, I don't yet trust electronic gadgets not to have hiccups," said Dennis Hansberger, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. "It's important and desirable to have that kind of information so we can verify what we've done."
Sequoia Voting Systems and San Bernardino County are teaming up to use the relatively new technology Tuesday.
"It is a joint project to help demonstrate that the printers work well in an election environment and should be approved for statewide use," said Alfie Charles, a spokesman for the voting system vendor.
Officials from the Secretary of State's Office will watch the system in action. The Voting Systems Panel, which includes staffers from the Secretary of State's Office and other voting experts, approved the limited test last week.
The system works like this: A voter completes a ballot and presses an on-screen box to print the choices. The printout appears under glass so the voter can see but not touch it. If it's correct, the voter taps a box to submit. If it's incorrect, the voter taps another box, fixes the error and repeats the process.
County supervisors wanted a touch-screen system with a verifiable paper trail when they purchased about 4,000 voting machines in July 2003 for about $13 million.
But at the time, the paper-trail system was not available on any touch-screen systems. Sequoia Voting Systems, however, agreed to add the systems to all the machines once the safeguard was state-certified.
The county was under state and federal mandates to replace its punch-card system. The voting method was partly blamed for the 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida.
California Voter Foundation President Kim Alexander said the county could have chosen an optical scan system that uses paper ballots with a computer-counting system.
"It's the best of both worlds because the voter is holding a piece of paper that they can verify," she said.
Alexander, a major critic of the touch-screen systems, said the paper-trail tryout is a "step in the right direction."