Monday, November 22, 2004

Riverside editorial: Open the Machines

Riverside Press-Enterprise editorial, November 20, 2004


Remember the wise adage, trust but verify? Polls show that voters remain wary of touch-screen voting. This despite few reported glitches and repeated assurances from officials that the systems are reliable. To boost public confidence, the inner-workings of electronic voting must be transparent.

If only the Riverside County registrar of voters agreed. Since the Nov. 2 election, Barbara Dunsmore has dismissed the need for a paper voting trail and persisted with a court fight to withhold electronic voting data from this year's balloting.

An October Field Poll found that only 23 percent of California voters felt "very confident" in touch-screen machines. Such numbers are one reason federal law requires all counties to provide a "voter verifiable paper trail" by 2006.

Dunsmore's comments that such trails are wasteful do not enhance voter confidence.

Nor do her court fights to suppress voting data. Former Board of Supervisors candidate Linda Soubirous has filed separate lawsuits demanding to check the backup records the county kept during the March and November elections to see if they matched the votes logged by the machines.

Dunsmore argued against releasing the information, insisting that the machines are accurate and that the law lets the registrar decide how much data the public can review.

Two state courts sided with the registrar. But Soubirous plans more appeals.

Dunsmore may have the law on her side. But this isn't a debate over technicalities. The health of our democracy rests on the public's confidence in the integrity of elections.

If the registrar wants to crush qualms of local voters, she should release all the information, and let the people judge.

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