San Francisco files notice
against voter machine company
By Maya Strausberg
November 7, 2007
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Department of
Elections Director John Arntz issued a notice today charging the
company that supplied the city with voting machines used in Tuesday's
election with material breach of contract.
Election Systems & Software's alleged breach of contract
comes in part from the company not notifying California Secretary
of State Debra Bowen of changes made to their AutoMARK ballot
marking devices. They lost the machine's certification but did
not inform the city of San Francisco or other districts using
Every ballot will have to be hand counted due to the lack of
certification of the machines, according to Herrera and Arntz.
"Five counties out there thought they were buying the AutoMARK,"
said Arntz. "They didn't know there was an AutoMARK 2."
Ballots that had marks made with the wrong kind of pens were
kicked out of the machines. Additionally, ranked-choice ballots
that did not receive enough votes, like the mayor's race, which
asked voters to include a second and third choice, were kicked
out of the machines.
Nearly 95 percent of San Francisco ballots have been denied by
machines, said Arntz. He said starting today, his department will
be counting votes 24 hours a day for at least a week.
The city's contract with ES&S began in December 1999, according
to Herrera, with additional amendments to continue the contract
each year since.
Herrera has given the voting machine company 10 days to supply
new machines and pay for any costs accrued by the additional man
power needed to count ballots.
Arntz estimated that the cost so far is approximately $300,000.
The city originally bought 565 AutoMARK machines for more than
$3 million, said Herrera.
Almost 600 machines had to be borrowed from Contra Costa County,
Herrera said. But that won't be an option for the February election,
when Contra Costa County will need the machines.
Herrera said he did not want to announce the decision before
today to avoid affecting voter confidence for the election.
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