Thursday, August 18, 2005

San Diego group conducts parallel election, requests vote recount

Interesting news from San Diego -- a recount in the city's recent election is taking place after a local group conducted a parallel election and found the official results questionable. An article by Evan McLaughlin, staff writer for Voices of San Diego, is featured below.


A local citizens group claims that the automated voting machines used in San Diego made mistakes that changed the results of the July 26 special election significantly and it is paying the county to do a manual recount of ballots cast in 11 precincts.

"It's about accurately counting the votes," said Brina-Rae Schuchman, one of 23 individuals who want to check the accuracy of the Diebold AccuVote-OS optical scanning machines the county used to tally votes in the citywide special election. "Our jobs as citizens are to get every vote counted in America, and as long as that's not happening, we're losing democracy in America."

The group staged a parallel election at 11 of the city's precincts on Election Day, asking voters to copy their votes onto paper ballots after casting official ballots that were recorded by Diebold scanners.

Organizers took the results to a statistician, who determined that the difference between the tallies by the registrar of voters for the mayoral race and a ballot measure and those recorded in the parallel election were statistically significant, even after accounting for participants who broke a pledge to vote exactly the same on both ballots.

Calls placed to Diebold, Inc.'s headquarters in North Canton, Ohio, were not returned Tuesday.

Initially, the Citizen Audit Parallel Election Project is requesting a manual recount of the 11 precincts, Schuchman said. County officials will begin hand counting the ballots within the next week.

She said they will ask for a hand recount of all precincts if results from the first handful of precincts confirm their suspicions. The citizens group, which has raised money from across the state, will pay for the staff and equipment needed for the recount.

The group was assembled after various media reports nationwide have questioned the integrity of Diebold voting machines.

County Registrar of Voters Mikel Haas said his office tested the machines before the election and he is confident that the results were accurate.

"They're much more eloquent about their concerns than I am," Haas said. "There are safeguards that we work with before every election. That's part of the procedure."

The 11 candidates that ran for mayor and representatives for both sides of the Proposition A initiative, which proposed that the city of San Diego transfer the Mount Soledad Memorial to the federal government, must be given the chance to attend the recounts, Haas said.

The registrar said that optical scan machines will be used in the Nov. 6 statewide election to record both precinct and absentee ballots.

Touch-screen voting will be re-implemented for precinct ballots after machines are upgraded to include a voter-verified paper audit trail to comply with recent changes to the California election code, he said.

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