By Michelle Dearmond, Riverside Press-Enterprise, January 22, 2005
Secretary of State Kevin Shelley approved a voting-system printer Friday that will allow San Bernardino County residents to view a paper record of their ballot while casting their votes
electronically on a touch-screen machine.
The paper will be on a reel-to-reel printer behind glass next to the touch screen - allowing voters to see but not touch their ballot. Proponents of the printers have argued the machines will strengthen the security of the systems and boost voters' confidence in electronic voting. Opponents have criticized the machines as costly and redundant.
Shelley locked horns with county registrars last year when he implemented new security measures for counties that use electronic-voting machines, prompting a legal battle and months
of negotiations between the two sides.
Legislators then ordered all of those counties to install printers by January 2006 that will let voters review their choices on paper before casting the ballot.
"This final element, this voter-verified paper trail, in the county's view will eliminate once and for all any concerns that have been raised about electronic voting," said David Wert, a spokesman for San Bernardino County.
Wert said the county likely will use the machines in some locations in a small June election and use them on a large-scale basis in November.
Riverside County, which paved the way statewide for the ATM-style devices in 2000, has no plans to install printers yet. Unlike San Bernardino County, which recently began using the machines, Riverside County's contract with Sequoia did not cover the costs of retrofitting and installing printers on the machines. Purchasing the machines could run between $ 3.4 million and $ 4.7
million, although those figures could double, said Barbara Dunmore, Riverside County's registrar.
Those costs don't account for retrofitting the older machines, buying the paper or storing the printouts, she said.
If other vendors get approval to offer the devices at a lower cost, the county will consider those, she said.
Riverside County's Board of Supervisors also might ask the Legislature to repeal the law or modify it to allow counties to install printers on some but not all machines, Dunmore said.
Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, said the printers are a step in the right direction, and Riverside County is unlikely to get the law changed.
"Riverside is in a tough position, because they were the first county in California to go all touch-screen," said Alexander, who has questioned the integrity of electronic voting.
"Making changes may be more difficult, but they need to come along with what the rest of the state is doing in implementing reforms."