With the entire state of California facing a massive budget crisis, and most, if not all, of its counties facing shortfalls this year, Riverside County's Registrar of Voters, Barbara Dunmore, is refusing to collect at least $160,000 from Sequoia Voting Systems for the cost of manually counting paper trails produced by their touch-screen voting systems last November.
California counties which choose to use touch-screen voting systems to serve disabled voters are required to tally all of the so-called "paper trails" by hand after elections, as per requirements for their use as imposed by Sec. of State Debra Bowen in 2007, due to security concerns with such systems.
The cost for that tally is to be covered by the voting machine company, as per Bowen's certification documents, which state: "Elections officials are required to conduct the audits, and the vendor is required to reimburse the jurisdiction."
Dunmore's Assistant Registrar Doug Kinzle told The Desert Sun that they had no intention of seeking to repay the costs incurred by use of the Sequoia touch-screen machines.
"My contract is with the vendor, not the secretary of state...If the secretary of state would like to bill them for our expenses, she can do so," Kinzle reportedly told the paper. "I have a contract with (Sequoia) that doesn't say that I can bill them for that."
Riverside County, the first in the nation to force their voters to use insecure, touch-screen voting systems back in 2000 --- at the cost of some $19 million to tax-payers --- returned to paper ballots for most voters following Bowen's new certification requirements. Yet, some 72,000 unverifiable ballots were cast in the county last November on Sequoia's touch-screens, which are allowed for use, one per precinct, to ostensibly meet federal requirements for disabled voters.
Moreover --- and at least as incredibly --- despite Bowen's requirement to manually tally all paper trails from such systems, Dunmore certified last November's election as "full, true and correct" in time to meet the 28-day state certification deadline. Yet, unlike every other county in the state, and to the surprise of the SoS' office, Dunmore had yet to complete the manual tally of thousands of paper-trails, as we detailed late last month, claiming the cost of doing so, in a timely matter in compliance with state law, would be too high for the county.
She finally completed the tally last week, three months after the election, and a full two months since she'd claimed the certified totals were "full, true and correct."
Deputy Sec. of State Nicole Winger was as surprised to hear that Dunmore was refusing to bill Sequoia as she was to hear last month that Riverside was still counting paper trails, in secret.
"Vendors, not counties, apply to the secretary of state to have their voting systems approved for use in California," Winger told the Desert Sun. "Certainly any vendor that has permitted a county to continue using a reapproved voting system did so understanding that all of the conditions of the system reapproval document apply — not just the conditions the vendor may deem more convenient or less costly."
Tom Courbat, a former finance director for the county, and a local Election Integrity advocate who has been a long-time critic of Dunmore's administration, said that "Failing to collect the legal reimbursement costs from Sequoia means that taxpayers are paying for what the voting machine companies should have paid for."
"This is insane. It's like totally free money," he added.
Desert Sun's Nicole Brambila notes that Riverside has failed to bill Sequoia for all three elections last year, even as they are currently facing a $90 million budget shortfall.
In 2007 the former managing editor of The Press-Enterprise, a Southern California newspaper, called for the bumbling Dunmore to "be fired" by the county Board of Supervisors, noting her "lack of competence" in a number of areas. At the time, The BRAD BLOG wondered, given her astounding record of incompetence, how it is that she could still have the job.
After another year and a half of continued bungling, failure, and waste, we still wonder how the hell it can be that she's still at the helm of Riverside County's elections. As usual, the voters deserve far better.