February 9, 2009 - REDUNDANT TALLYING // State mandate ratchets up costs, imperils early voting
Paper: Press-Enterprise, The ( Riverside, CA)
Title: REDUNDANT TALLYING // State mandate ratchets up costs, imperils early voting
Date: February 9, 2009
Author: BARBARA DUNMORE, THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE
The November 2008 presidential election was truly historic, from its milestone results to its soaring voter turnout across our great nation.
In Riverside County, that translated into record voter turnout of 78.46 percent - topping most surrounding areas, including Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties.
As Riverside County's registrar of voters, I have to ensure that these votes are counted accurately and securely.
Of the record 657,000 ballots cast in Riverside County, 72,251 were cast electronically. This was more than were cast any other county in the state. In San Bernardino County, for instance, only 20,000 votes were cast electronically - a difference of more than 50,000 ballots.
The secretary of state limited electronic voting use in 2008, but still required one unit in every polling place on Election Day - including the 721 in Riverside County. To further complicate matters, an unlimited number of electronic voting units can be used at early- voting sites.
Finally, the secretary required that a second tally be conducted - this time by hand - of all ballots cast on electronic voting units. This was a time-consuming and labor-intensive task.
My office dedicated tens of thousands of hours to conduct that required second tally.
We were conscious of the 28-day post- election canvass period, but costs were mounting. At the end of the 28 days, we got rid of all temporary employees working on the tally.
To have recounted all of our 72,251 electronically cast ballots within 28 days would have added $120,000 more in costs.
In the end, the results of our mandated hand tally, once completed, were exactly the same as the results reported by the voting units on Election Day. No discrepancies. No errors. They were 100 percent correct.
November 2008 was our largest election ever, and I am pleased with our success in administering it. We were very successful not only at ensuring the secure and accurate reporting of votes, but also at accommodating the more than 650,000 residents who chose to cast their ballots without waiting in long lines at the polling places.
Many county residents commute long distances to work. Recognizing their needs and the expected record-high voter turnout at the polls, we made voting as easy as possible for those who wished to participate.
We encouraged voters to vote by mail and offered residents several opportunities to vote early at regional malls and at our voter-mobile, which crisscrossed the county. Our efforts proved extremely successful and were much appreciated by our voters.
While I understand that the secretary of state's requirements are designed to ensure accuracy, Riverside County has utilized electronic voting for more than eight years, and each election's results have proved accurate.
A BIG DETERRENT
The hand-tally mandate is a deterrent to using the millions of dollars in electronic voting equipment we have sitting idle. It would be a disservice to voters to eliminate early- voting programs because of a duplicative mandate that saps resources. But that is a decision we must carefully weigh in these difficult budget times.
I am confident in the procedures we have in place. And regardless of the voting method used, you can be confident that when we finish counting ballots and the election is certified, the results reflect the public's will. The outcome is just as the voters declared it to be.
I have faith in the voters of Riverside County, and I encourage their continued participation in America's democratic process, which provides all citizens an opportunity to have their voice heard.
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Barbara Dunmore is Riverside County's registrar of voters.
Edition: ALL ZONES
Index Terms: COMMENTARY
Record Number: 854606
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