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Thursday, October 04, 2007

More Like This, Please 

Hats off to the Hon. Winifred Smith of Alameda County, CA, the rare Superior Court judge who is capable of apprehending the bleeding obvious:
[A] judge has voided election results after [Alameda] county botched its response to a contested race conducted on Diebold electronic voting machines. The judge ordered that the disputed Measure R -- an initiative addressing the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries -- go back on next year's ballot.

Measure R lost by fewer than 200 votes in the 2004 election, and Americans for Safe Access and voters in the city of Berkeley brought a legal challenge seeking a recount. But while the lawsuit was ongoing, election officials returned the voting machines to supplier Diebold Election Systems, and 96% of the detailed audit information from the election was destroyed. EFF helped analyze the remaining data, but as the judge recognized, it was impossible to tell if the tallies reported on election night were correct . . . .

This is only the second time in Californian history that a court has ordered than an election be rerun. The message is clear: using electronic voting machines and keeping sloppy records is not an acceptable way to run an election.
Additional kudos to California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who plainly understands what certain woefully benighted writers of editorials do not -- that, in the counting of votes, speed must never trump accuracy:
Editor - I was surprised The Chronicle chose to let San Francisco's voting system vendor off the hook when it comes to election integrity and ensuring every person's vote is counted as it was cast ("Polling purgatory," Sept. 24). The shortcomings of the Election Systems & Software (ES&S) ranked-choice voting system have been known for years, which is why it's never been permanently certified by a California secretary of state.

Since 2004, ES&S has received three "one-time administrative certifications" for the ranked-choice system, with repeated warnings by prior secretaries to fix the arcane infrared technology that fails to read ballots marked with many types of ink. ES&S has refused to improve its ranked-choice voting system. Instead, the company has attempted to run out the clock on this and several other voting system reviews in the hopes of avoiding public scrutiny.

Letting ES&S shortchange the city's voters once again wouldn't have solved the problem; it would have exacerbated it. Fundamental flaws in some of the very tools of our democracy should not be ignored.

DEBRA BOWEN
California Secretary of State
Sacramento

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