Supervisors to Consider $8.7 Million Investment in Voting System Upgrades

RIVERSIDE (CNS) - Riverside County supervisors next week will consider whether to commit the county to an $8.7 million investment in voting equipment acquisitions and upgrades in preparation for the 2020 elections.

Supervisors Karen Spiegel and Chuck Washington are recommending the investment based on hearings they've held over the past few months as part of an ad hoc committee overseeing the Office of the Registrar of Voters.

The pair noted in a document posted to the Board of Supervisors' Tuesday agenda that the current voting system ``is experiencing an increased rate of break-downs and requires a significant staffing effort and time commitment to maintain and operate.''

Over the past 20 years, they said, an estimated $31.25 million has been spent on maintenance and procurement of voting system hardware. The county shifted completely to manual voting and away from touchscreen digital voting in early 2008 after then-California Secretary of State Debra Bowen determined e- voting systems were highly vulnerable to hack attacks.

Since then, the county has relied on paper ballots, which have to be verified and tabulated by hand and via high-speed scanners.

Spiegel and Washington said the need for more efficient and faster tabulation has grown significantly in the last decade because the vast majority of county voters -- over 500,000 -- now cast their ballots by mail, and vote- by-mail ballots are harder to sort.

According to the supervisors, the ``re-conditioned'' high-speed scanners currently in use require a service technician to be available ``at all times'' during election periods.

The goal going forward is to have the lion's share of ballot counting finished on election night, the supervisors said.

They're asking for their colleagues to support acquisition of a ``Democracy Suite Voting System'' -- with eight-year-long support contracts -- provided by Toronto-based Dominion Voting Systems Inc. The system consists of a high-speed optical scan tabulator, signature verifier and a host of related software.

The supervisors are also seeking procurement of Danbury, Connecticut- based BlueCrest Inc.'s Vantage mail sorting hardware to expedite the processing of mail-in ballots.

The contract with BlueCrest would include a five-year service agreement.

According to Spiegel and Washington, without the changes, Office of the Registrar of Voters' staff will continue to battle equipment failures and the county's aging system may be in jeopardy of de-certification by the state.

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