Election Integrity Advocates told Hand Count Fees to be $6000/day, While Media told Fees Would be $2000-3000/day
ALSO: No Documents for Ballot Chain of Custody, Machine Audit Logs, 1% Random Audit, as Requested by Hand Count Filing, Have Been Produced by San Diego County Registrar's Office Despite Demand for $6000 Payment Due Tuesday...
By Brad Friedman on 7/9/2006, 6:05am PT  

The San Diego County Registrar's office seems to be playing games with the amount they are attempting to charge for the cost of a manual hand count request as filed for accountability in the June 6th Busby/Bilbray U.S. House special election.

As well, the office has so far refused to produce any of the documents requested by the voter who filed for the hand count as required by California state law.

As we reported originally, the SD County Assistant Registrar of Voters, Tim McNamara, had informed an Election Integrity advocate via email that the cost of such a count was estimated to be "in the range of $110,000 to $130,000 and would take approximately 24 to 30 working days." The total estimated cost would be $6000 per day. (Complete email from McNamara at bottom of this article.)

However, a story from Friday's North County Times in San Diego on the manual hand count request (they, inaccurately, call it a "recount request") quotes an estimate from the RoV's office that is less than half that size:

Registrar of voters spokesman Mike Workman said that county counsel is now reviewing Jacobson's request for a recount...a process which can cost the requesting party as much as $2,000 to $3,000 a day, Workman said.

Further, SD County Registrar Mikel Haas has FedExed a letter to Barbara Gail Jacobson, the requester of the manual hand count, informing her that she must pay $6000 by 3pm this Tuesday, July 11th, to begin the count which he estimates in his letter will to be "between $120,000 and $150,000."

His letter also failed to include responses to numerous documents requested, such as chain of custody logs for ballots and voting machines, any of the audit logs from the machines used on election day, or any of the information requested on precinct voter breakdowns as allowed to the requester by state law (CA Election Code 15630 and other related sections) before such a hand count can begin.

All three sets of numbers for the fees associated with the count also failed to give any accounting for how the fees to be charged have been set. (Complete letter from Haas is also at the end of this article.)

"I have received no responses to any of my requests for information," Jacobson told us. "Not even any information on the required 1% manual audit that was supposed to have been done prior to the certification."

With three different sets of numbers now given from three different RoV sources, the question arises as to how they come up with such numbers in the first place.

All of the estimates, even the lowest of them, are far higher than similar quotes from other California country Registrars, as we reported previously. The highest of the numbers quoted by Haas come to nearly one dollar per vote, while in Orange County, CA, the registrar is reportedly charging some 14 cents per vote for a similar count.

Why the disparity in all of these numbers? It would be good to know.

Election Reform watchdog organization VelvetRevolution.us has taken up a collection for the costs associated with the entire legal battle over the Busby/Bilbray election. Contributions may be made here.

Meanwhile, Haas seems to be continuing his public misinformation campaign concerning the so-called Diebold voting machine "sleepovers"...

The problems began when Haas allowed the world's most hackable voting systems --- programmed and election-ready --- to be sent home for days and weeks prior to the election with poll workers to be stored in their cars and garages. The lack of secure storage for those machines rendered them effectively decertified and illegal, according to both state and federal law, for use in the bellwether Busby/Bilbray special election to replace the disgraced and jailed Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

The North County Times quotes Haas as saying "there was nothing unusual about allowing the machines to be taken home and that the practice is widespread across the state."

While it's true that voting machines were routinely sent home in the past with poll workers, new state and federal security mitigation requirements --- established in just the past few months in response to the discovery and confirmation of dozens of severe vulnerabilities in both the Diebold optical-scan and touch-screen voting systems --- rendered that practice no longer legal for a number of reasons.

Haas contends, in the article, "that all voting machines are sealed for security and that any person who has possession of a machine must follow a strict protocol, establishing a chain of custody."

However, Haas himself admitted in a phone interview conducted by The BRAD BLOG with him several weeks ago, that memory seals were not placed over all vulnerability access points on the Diebold systems sent out for "sleepovers" and that, in any case, storage in poll workers' cars could "not be considered secure."

The new federal and state provisions require secure storage of voting machines with memory cards once they are programmed. Furthermore, The BRAD BLOG has been told by a number of poll workers in San Diego County that they were given no instructions in regard to the "secure storage" of the voting systems before they were handed them to take home.

The Times piece also repeated a bit of deceptive information from California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson's office who had said to several media outlets that "no state law exists prohibiting poll inspectors from taking the machines home."

While there is no state law which says "Poll workers may not take voting machines home," there is also no state law which specifically says, "Poll workers may not set voting machines on fire." Nonetheless, there are plenty of regulations on the books which would make such activity illegal, just as there are now plenty of regulations on the books which make voting machine "sleepovers" illegal...or at least, the use of such machines in an election after such a blatant breach of security has occurred.

The complete letter, as FedExed from San Diego County Registrar Mikel Haas on 7/7/06 in reply to Barbara Gail Jacobson's hand count request is below. It's followed by the full email response to a request for the costs of a hand count several days earlier from Asst. Registrar of Voters, Tim McNamara. The costs in both Haas' letter and McNamara's email differ by thousands of dollars from the information supplied by the same office to the North County Times...

Sent: 7/3/2006 11:36 AM
FROM: McNamara, Tim [Tim.McNamara@sdcounty.ca.gov]
TO: {private email address redacted}
Cc: Haas, Mikel; Hjorth, Ruby; Floyd, Dennis I; Robers, Monique
Subject: Your Requests to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters

Dear Ms. Dorrance,

Your Public Records Act request has been received and the questions/issues that you present will be addressed by County Counsel within the parameters of that Act.

However, I can address the issue of estimated costs of a recount immediately.

This office certified the results of the U.S. Representative 50th District on June 29, 2006. Based on previous experience the estimated cost of recounting ballots cast in this election using, for example, four counting boards would be in the range of $110,000 to $130,000 and would take approximately 24 to 30 working days. It assumes that the four boards in the example, working six hours a day, could hand tally 1,500 ballots each.

The deposit required for the first day, which would include initial costs related to sorting and preparation of the ballot, planning, the required legal notices, counting board recruitment, and pre-recount meeting with representative of the candidates, would be estimated at $6,000.

These, of course, are all rough estimated, but we wanted you to have at least some sense of the cost parameters of your potential request for a recount.

Also, I urge you to review Division 15, Chapter 9 of the California Elections Code regarding recall elections.

Thank you.

Tim McNamara
Assistant Registrar of Voters
San Diego County

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