Thursday, January 27, 2005

Riverside: County to lobby for e-vote funding

By Dave Downey, North County Times, January 25, 2005

Good news from Riverside -- the county's board of supervisors voted unanimously to reject a proposal from their registrar that they lobby the state legislature to repeal the voter verified paper record requirement. Instead, they will lobby the state to seek more funding to pay for retrofitting their Sequoia touchscreens with printers.



Riverside County officials Tuesday decided against challenging a new state law requiring touch-screen machines to be retrofitted by January 2006 with devices that provide voters with backup paper records of their ballots.

Instead, the county Board of Supervisors decided to focus on lobbying for state funding to cover the millions of dollars it may cost to retrofit the machines.

The board's 5-0 decision spurned a recommendation by the county elections chief to set a goal of lobbying to repeal the state law, or at least scale it back because of its cost implications for Riverside County.

Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore said in an interview Tuesday that it would be easier for the county to retrofit, say, one machine per polling place.

If the county were to attach paper-trail devices to all 4,250 electronic voting machines, it would face a cost of $3 million to $8 million ---- on top of the $14 million it paid for the touch screens in the first place five years ago, Dunmore said. And she said that cost would be an enormous financial hardship at a time when money is tight.


During the board meeting, several community activists urged supervisors not to challenge the state law, saying that the paper-trail devices are needed to ensure widespread voter confidence as computer-voting technology spreads.

"This debate, I believe, was settled," said Joe Lucsko of Banning. "It's almost like, with this proposal, the county is trying to swim upstream."

Art Cassell of Lake Mathews added: "This is a message Riverside County should not be sending."

Supervisor Bob Buster suggested the county had reason to challenge the law because of its success with the system. But other supervisors said a challenge would be a mistake because many people are insisting on a paper trail to guard against potential computer fraud and to give voters reason to trust the system.

"I just don't see that (the paper trail) is going to go away," said Supervisor John Tavaglione. "Let's pick our battles appropriately."

Instead, Tavaglione said, the county should be lobbying for state and federal funding to cover the cost of retrofitting its machines, a strategy to which his colleagues agreed.

But getting state funds will be tricky, Dunmore said. That's because Riverside County is ineligible for money from Proposition 41, the measure that provides funds for counties to switch to computer systems. The county already obtained $7 million for its initial system from that source.

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