Tuesday, June 28, 2005

CVF urges Alameda County supervisors to consider alternatives

Today I will be in Oakland for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors' hearing on their future voting system plans. I sent a letter to the Supervisors outlining a number of alternatives to consider before making their decision. Today's Oakland Tribune also features a story about today's hearing. Excerpts are below.


It's shopping time for elections officials, the moment to buy the means of democratic choice for the next congressional and presidential elections.

And some of the nation's largest jurisdictions — Los Angeles, Chicago and Greater Miami — are headed toward voting on paper.

"Could it be a sign of things to come? I'm not sure," said Sean Greene, research director for the nonpartisan reform group Electionline.org.

A real test of whether the nation's big urban places are moving away from electronic voting could come today in Alameda County as supervisors consider a voting-system upgrade.

The same county supervisors who three years ago spent $12 million on Diebold touch-screen voting machines and turned the county into a West Coast e-voting pioneer are weighing whether to invest more heavily or trade in for a paper-based optical scanning system.

That makes this morning's hearing a battlefield, with Texas-based Diebold Election Systems sending top executives to keep their foothold here and a coalition of e-voting critics arguing the company and its products are not trustworthy.

Alameda County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold wants Diebold's latest touchscreen, called the AccuVote TSx, a lighter, fuller-functioning version of the county's existing AccuVote TS machines that also can print a paper record allowing voters to confirm their choices.

Full paper-based voting, Ginnold argues, is costly and cumbersome. Conducting a primary election in her county requires at least 33 different ballots for each precinct — one for each of eight parties, plus three cross-over parties, all in three languages. Paper ballots also can be imprecise, subject to bad or ambiguous markings by voters.

But if Ginnold thinks paper-based voting systems are a thing of the past, they also could be the future. Absentee balloting, or voting by mail, is growing fast in California, with more than half of voters in some jurisdictions mailing in their paper ballots.

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