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The Oz of Computerized Voting

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Message Paul Jacobs

Supes drag feet on vote machines

Some refer to Riverside County as "the I.E.," for Inland Empire, but those are the wrong two letters. This place is run more like Oz, sans the flying monkeys.

Last Tuesday, I went down the yellow brick road to the county Board of Supervisors meeting.

So, what do the supervisors do when their hand-picked Election Review Committee produces a report they don't like? They bury it for two months by forming their own internal ad hoc committee to review the review by the other committee!

No provisions were made for public participation and no ERC members were invited to serve on the new committee. This inside job only needs two supervisors and county executives to meet privately with their pet registrar of voters to delay ---- I mean discuss ---- the ERC recommendations and report back in September with alternative recommendations, I suppose.

I was wrong to predict that the original ERC would whitewash its report in favor of the county's computerized voting machines. I didn't expect the supervisors to do the whitewashing themselves right there in front of God and everybody.

I sincerely apologize to committee members Lynn Baldi, Kay Ceniceros, Marcia McQuern, Robert Taylor and Jim Ward for my insulting allegation. They volunteered hundreds of hours and sacrificed personal vacations to produce a comprehensive report on an extremely complicated matter.

Now our county supervisors owe the committee members a public apology for taking their considered report and stuffing it.

After county leaders unilaterally decided to spend 30 million taxpayer dollars on privatized computerized voting equipment with two purchases in less than seven years, Supervisors Jeff Stone and Bob Buster actually suggested having people vote for or against the voting machines on a ballot measure. Oz has now officially entered the rabbit hole.

Somehow, our elected decision-makers were up to the task when deciding to be the first in the nation to go countywide with the use of computerized voting machines back in 2000, and again in January 2006 when buying a second round of voting machines with printers.

Now that the ERC has told them the same thing local election integrity advocates have been telling them for years, they cowardly avoid moving forward with the diversion of another committee and attempt to shuffle off their responsibility onto the voters.

The supervisors mock the ERC by forming another committee and pitifully attempt to abdicate their responsibility with a public vote ---- using the existing voting equipment operating on company-owned software. Gee, I wonder how the tally of that election will add up?

In December 2006, the ERC was given 90 days to report back to the supervisors, but it took until July for them to complete the monumental task they were given. Their report recommends the county "move as quickly as possible to a hybrid voting system whereby able-bodied voters mark their preference on paper ballots which are then counted on optical scanners."

The supervisors wouldn't be hemming and hawing if the ERC report had found that the county's existing voting system was totally sound.

What part of "switch to paper ballots" is so hard for the county rulers to comprehend? Is the two-month delay designed to ensure Sequoia Voting Systems gets another sole-source contract, just like the county authorized in January 2006?

Paul Jacobs of Temecula is a regular columnist for The Californian. E-mail:

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Paul has worked in health care for the past 30 years and writes a weekly column for a local newspaper in California. He is involved in local civics, a member of Citizens for Democracy, Temecula Valley and active in the election integrity movement. (more...)
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