May 23, 2007 - Protesters cry foul over election hires
Paper: San Diego Union-Tribune, The (CA)
Title: Protesters cry foul over election hires
Date: May 23, 2007
It doesn't take much to rile up opponents of electronic voting.
So when San Diego County decided to hire two new elections officials who critics say have questionable backgrounds the ensuing conflict was inevitable.
About 35 protesters lashed out at county officials yesterday inside and outside of a Board of Supervisors meeting for their decision to hire Deborah Seiler and Michael Vu as the county's top two elections officials.
Seiler, who will take over as registrar of voters June 4, spent 15 years working for two electronic voting-machine companies -- Diebold Election Systems and Sequoia Pacific Systems -- before leading elections in Solano County. The county uses Diebold machines.
Vu, who was hired as assistant registrar last month, is regularly criticized by voting-rights advocates for his role as elections chief in Ohio's Cuyahoga County. His tenure there was marred when two of his employees received felony convictions for rigging the 2004 presidential recount to avoid a thorough review of ballots. Vu has staunchly defended the employees.
" San Diego has become the laughingstock of the country for election integrity," said attorney Ken Simpkins, co-founder of Psephos, a nonprofit organization that monitors elections.
"It cannot be an accident that the most controversial elections officials in the country ... are here in San Diego," he told supervisors. "An agenda to deprive citizens of clean elections appears to be in place and the people most likely to benefit from such an agenda are incumbents who set the policy for our elections."
Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard adamantly defended his decision to hire Seiler and Vu, saying they served honorably in their previous jobs and will ensure the integrity of elections here.
"I understand there are those of you who disagree with my hires," Ekard said. "I have heard you. I have listened to you. I disagree with you and that's it."
Several protesters yelled over Ekard's comments and board Chairman Ron Roberts ejected two of the loudest from the meeting. As one woman was leaving, she shouted, "Everything you're doing is wrong and you're subverting democracy, and we won't have it!"
Supervisor Pam Slater-Price called protesters' behavior "rude and totally unacceptable." She said those concerned about electronic voting can cast absentee ballots, as she does each election.
Protesters took their message outside of the County Administration Center in downtown San Diego. They held signs that read "Seiler + Vu = Sleaze x 2" and "From taxpayer to Diebold" with pictures of dollars bills being exchanged.
Protesters called on county officials to halt the purchase of any more electronic voting machines until California Secretary of State Debra Bowen finishes a review of the systems in use. Bowen announced the review two weeks ago.
Psephos also plans to look at the possibility of launching an initiative that would make the registrar an elected position.
Author: Craig Gustafson
Copyright 2007 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.