Local elections were held in many counties throughout California yesterday. In several counties, election officials transitioned from electronic voting systems in polling places to paper ballot voting. This was due to the fact that California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has severely restricted the use of electronic voting machines in California, allowing counties using Diebold and Sequoia touchscreens to only place one machine in each polling place for accessibility purposes.
Although the restrictions don't take effect until the 2008 election season, many counties made the transition early to give themselves and their pollworkers a chance to get comfortable with the new voting methods before the presidential election. Michelle D'Armond of the Riverside Press Enterprise reported today in this article about the slow vote count in one county, San Bernardino, which just switched back to paper. Excerpts are featured below.
Californians may not know the winner of next year's presidential primary until days after the election, if this week is any indication.
In San Bernardino County, which switched to paper ballots this election, polling-place results weren't available until about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, leaving candidates and voters wondering who won a number of local races.
So what does that mean for February's election, when most California voters will use paper ballots to pick presidential nominees and turnout is expected to be much higher and ballots will be longer?
"I would suspect that in some races the results could be unknown for some time," San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Kari Verjil said of the presidential and legislative primary elections. "I'm glad that I went forward with paper ballots for this election, because it's opened my eyes to some of the problems, to what I'm going to see in February and June."
San Bernardino County used paper ballots this election in response to an order from the secretary of state, ordering them not to use their touch-screen voting machines in February because of security concerns. Riverside County used touch-screen voting Tuesday. It and many other counties also must switch to paper ballots in February.
After the polls closed Tuesday, both counties posted absentee ballot counts. Riverside County then posted updates from precinct voting about every hour. San Bernardino County didn't post any precinct results until after midnight Wednesday.
Redlands City Council candidate Jerry Bean said he saw the results of absentee ballots -- which were posted about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday -- but gave up on waiting for the polling-place results and went to bed.
Bean and his supporters "had no idea what was happening" in the race, but he was glad San Bernardino County decided to try out the system in a small, local election instead of next year's contests.
"Could you imagine if this happened next November?" said Bean, who was the top vote getter in his race.
Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization, predicted that counties will get faster at using the optical scanners, but acknowledged that results likely still will be late. Voters enjoy the convenience of being able to register fairly close to elections, request absentee ballots late and drop off their absentee ballots at polls on Election Day, but all those things increase burdens on registrars, she said.
"That's been the trend," she said. "It's taking longer no matter what the voting system."