Secretary of State eyes SD Registrar of Voters
East County Californian (2007-05-31) Miriam Raftery
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By Miriam Raftery
The East County Californian
May 31, 2007
California’s Secretary of State is hot on the trail of alleged election law violations by San Diego’s Registrar of Voters.
Bruce Sims, a systems administrator for Microsoft Windows networks with 30 years of computer industry experience, has filed a complaint with the California Secretary of State’s office alleging that San Diego’s Registrar of Voters office has committed multiple violations of state election laws and testing procedures in the past three statewide elections.
“Efforts to have local authorities investigate ‘malfeasance’ of office by [former San Diego Registrar] Mikel Haas have been unsuccessful,” Sims stated in his complaint, filed March 8, 2007.
Now, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has initiated an investigation aimed at tracking down the truth.
In a letter dated April 23, Bowen asked San Diego’s Interim Registrar of Voters, Mischelle Townsend, to respond to Sim’s complaint.
“I’m sure you would agree that the allegations in the letter are quite serious,” Bowen’s letter stated.
The Secretary of State asked Townsend to respond to four specific allegations that San Diego County did not properly perform logic and accuracy testing in accordance with conditions placed on certification of the Diebold Voting System; connected its GEMS system (central tabulator) and transmitted election results over the Internet in violation of state election law (an allegation which Haas previously admitted to in an interview with The East County Californian); used the wrong version of the GEMS software for the June 2006 primary election; and did not count results of certain precincts at the November 2005 statewide special election.
The letter asked for a reply by May 15. The Registrar’s office claimed that a response had been sent May 11, Sims said. But as of May 21, the Secretary of State’s office had not received a reply.
In response to an inquiry by The East County Californian, County spokesman Mike Workman wrote in an email May 24 that the County has “responded, in writing,” to Bowen’s letter. Workman did not respond to a follow-up request for a copy of the response.
In a letter sent to all members of the County Board of Supervisors on May 21, Sims wrote that it is impossible for the County to comply with state requirements that all voting machines be tested before an election.
“It took the Registrar of Voters staff two weeks just to test six machines and 80 memory cards,” Sims wrote. Given that there are 10,000 machines and 10,000 memory cards countywide, the system is “unusable” if the law is followed, he added.
Sims asked the Supervisors to terminate Diebold’s contract and revert back to an old-fashioned voting method he believes is more trustworthy than electronic machines.
If countries such as Australia and Canada can hold elections using hand-marked, hand-counted ballots successfully, he pointed out, other than requirements to serve disabled voters “there is no reason why…San Diego County cannot hold elections in the same manner.”
Workman declined to comment when asked who recommended that County administrator Walt Ekard hire Debra Seiler (a former Diebold sales representative) as San Diego’s new Registrar of Voters, Michael Vu as Assistant Registrar, and Townsend as Interim Registrar.
Nor would he say whether Ekard knew that Seiler had sold Diebold voting machines to our County amid questions over certification of those voting machines, or why Ekard hired Vu, who presided over a presidential election recount in Ohio in which people were found guilty of felony election-rigging.
At a May 22 Board of Supervisors’ meeting, Ekard stated that he believed Seiler and Vu “served honorably in their prior roles.”
In an e-mail to The East County Californian, Workman wrote, “Mr. Ekard’s statements at the meeting on the issue of the recent ROV hires stand. You were at the meeting, you have those quotes. That would be all we have to say on the matter.”
Workman also did not respond to a question asking for each Supervisor’s view on whether the public should have a right to observe votes being counted.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents East County, did respond via e-mail to a May 29 inquiry regarding electronic voting.
“To the extent that observers are rational, law-abiding citizens, absolutely,” she said when asked if the public should observe vote counting. “Over the years, the public has consistently observed votes being counted.”
As to whether proprietary/secret vote counting software is acceptable, Jacob replied that the term is “loaded, vague and confusing.” She deferred questions on efficacy of voting systems to California’s Secretary of State, who is responsible for certification of election equipment.
Shortly after Secretary of State Debra Bowen issued a press release announcing statewide audits and hack tests of voting systems to be conducted in May, June and July, San Diego County issued an announcement that it planned to spend millions of dollars on additional electronic voting machines. So, The East County Californian asked Jacob why this purchase was being planned before testing was concluded.
“The County is not intending to consider purchasing any additional machines until the Secretary of State has concluded her work,” Jacob said.
Jacob said Ekard does not have a track record of questionable appointments.
“Mr. Ekard runs a 17,000 person operation and is an exemplary CEO,” Jacob said. “That is the reason San Diego County has been recognized repeatedly as one of the best managed counties in the country. Like those members of the public who understand the tremendous scope of conducting multiple public elections in a geographically and ethnically diverse county of over 3 million people, I am looking forward to paying close attention to the happenings of the next election.”