Board of Supervisors committee approves new
Photo courtesy Tampabay.com
By Ari Burack
December 6, 2007
As ballot counting from San Francisco's Nov. 7 election continues,
supervisors on Tuesday will vote to replace the city's current
computer voting system after approval via committee today.
San Francisco's three-member Budget and Finance Committee yesterday
gave preliminary consent to a resolution awarding a new, $12.66
million, four-year contract to Sequoia Voting Systems.
The full, 11-member Board of Supervisors will vote on the resolution
at the next Board of Supevisors meeting.
The committee vote comes a day after San Francisco elections
officials were granted a weeklong extension for a manual recount
of some ballots from the Nov. 7 election because of issues with
the city's current computerized voting machines, manufactured
by the Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems and Software.
According to Director of Elections John Arntz, his office has
been given court approval until Tuesday to recount some 80,000
absentee ballots, a week more than the Dec. 4 official certification
date of election results required by the state.
Arntz said yesterday he hoped the counting would be done by Friday.
Problems arose from the ES&S machines, causing California
Secretary of State Debra Bowen to impose stricter conditions on
the tabulation of results using hand counts.
California Secretary of State Debra Bowen
Discrepancies between initial hand counts and results from the
ES&S machines have resulted in the need to manually recount
absentee ballots related to measures A, E, F and G, according
The preliminary voting results for the four measures are not
expected to change significantly, according to Arntz.
Some of the absentee ballots from the election were registered
as "undervoted" by the ES&S machines, when in fact
they did have marked selections, Arntz said.
"It's based on the equipment," Arntz said. "This
equipment, we knew, had limitations on what it reads." Arntz
said those limitations were originally believed to be manageable,
but now, he said, "it really is unacceptable."
"The Sequoia equipment just picks up more than does the
ES&S equipment," he said.
Arntz said the Sequoia machines offer a newer operating system,
quicker generation of reports, are more flexible in their operations,
and have no issues with state certification.
The Sequoia machines still need federal certification for ranked
choice voting, which Arntz said he expects soon, in time for San
Francisco's next ranked choice election, scheduled for November
2008, he said.
Both Santa Clara and Alameda counties also currently use Sequoia
The committee approved the resolution despite several public
comments skeptical of the Sequoia system's security, its ease
of use and issues raised concerning source code transparency.
Committee chair Supervisor Aaron Peskin acknowledged that the
country is in a "very unstable time" in the development
of secure and accurate voting technology, and that the current
choices are limited.
Peskin said that there is a provision in the Sequoia contract,
should it be approved, that would allow it to be terminated at
any time. In such a case, Sequoia would be required to buy the
technology back from San Francisco, he said.
Absent other options, Peskin said there was "an imperative"
for San Francisco not to engage in lengthy hand counts of ballots.
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