January 14, 2009 - Process of replacing elections equipment officially moving forward
Paper: Times-Standard ( Eureka, CA)
Title: Process of replacing elections equipment officially moving forward
Date: January 14, 2009
Author: Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a plan dumping the Premier Elections Solutions equipment that marred the county's November election by dropping almost 200 ballots.
The board's vote came early Tuesday afternoon, after hours of discussion and public comment on the Election Office's proposal, appointments to boards and commissions and warrant requests from the county's Code Enforcement Unit.
County Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich explained Tuesday that her proposal to dump the Premier Elections Solutions optical ballot scanning machines and central vote counting software to those of Hart InterCivic had nothing to do with the errors discovered in November's election. The proposed switch, Crnich said, dates back to 2006 and is aimed at bringing the county's election equipment under a single vendor, making it easier for elections staff to conduct elections.
Nearly a dozen people addressed the board during the public comment period, with some of them praising Crnich and her proposal and others urging the board to open the proposal up to a more public process. Nearly all of those who lobbied the board to deny Crnich's proposal expressed their desire to see the county implement a system of hand counting ballots.
Crnich's proposal to switch to Hart InterCivic's equipment, critics said, simply replaces one secret, proprietary vote-counting system for another.
”We do want to ensure that we don't want to repeat past mistakes, which involved buying secret, proprietary vote counting machines,” said Dave Berman, a co-founder of the Voter Confidence Committee, which has long lobbied for hand counting.
Fifth District Supervisor Jill Duffy said she supported Crnich's proposal, but said it is only made “palatable” by the fact that the Humboldt County Election Transparency Project is in place to keep a watchful eye over the county's election results.
The project, which is the only reason the software error that dropped ballots in the November election was discovered, essentially takes images of each ballot cast in an election and then places them online so members of the public can conduct recounts at their pleasure, either by hand or using open-source vote counting software crafted by volunteer Mitch Trachtenberg.
Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace said, with the prospect of the state calling a special election in the coming months in response to its budget crisis, the subject becomes all the more pressing.
”We have a system that we know is flawed, that we know is fallible,” Lovelace said. “I feel very good about the direction we're going in.”
With the board having approved the plan, Crnich said she will now work with the California Secretary of State's Office to come up with a funding plan to pay the more than $600,000 for the new equipment without using any county funds. Once the plan is formulated, it will come back before the board for approval.
In other matters, the board voted unanimously to grant an exception to its moratorium on Code Enforcement Unit warrants, granting a request from the unit to serve a total of seven inspection and abatement warrants on a variety of properties throughout the county.
The unit had requested another exception to serve an eighth warrant on a property on Lord Ellis Summit off State Route 299, but the board opted not to grant the request, saying the property had yet to be put through the necessary administrative channels.
Because the case concerns a junk yard, the board said it would be under the province of the county's Planning Department, which had yet to exhaust all its administrative remedies for the property. Duffy said it is important that the unit follow the process before resorting to serving warrants.
”I like process,” Duffy said. “Everyone knows I like process because you either meet it or you don't.”
In a related matter, the board appointed members to sit on its Code Enforcement Unit subcommittee. Duffy had served on the task force that looked into the issue, and the question arose as to whether she should also serve on the subcommittee.
”She has already done a tour of duty there, so let's see if there's another volunteer,” 4th District Supervisor Bonnie Neely said.
But, Duffy said she gained a lot of knowledge through the task force process, and was willing to put that to further use on the subcommittee. Second District Supervisor Clif Clendenen was appointed to join her.
Section: News Local
Record Number: 11449892
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