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California: Mail Ballot Request Deadline is Nov. 1st PDF  | Print |  Email
By from California Voter Foundation   
October 28, 2005
Voters in Nine Counties Urged to "Get It On Paper"

Davis, CA -- With the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot fast approaching, the California Voter Foundation is urging voters in nine electronic voting counties to "Get it on paper."

That's because these nine counties - Alameda, Merced, Napa, Orange, Plumas, Riverside, Santa Clara, Shasta, and Tehama -- will be using paperless, electronic voting machines in polling places on November 8.

"Studies continue to find that electronic voting machines are prone to error," said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation (CVF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization advancing paper backups and public auditing of computerized vote counts.  A recently published U.S. Government Accountability Office report found numerous security problems with electronic voting systems, and recommended the use of voter-verified paper audit trails, as did the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform.

Citing security concerns and an inability to conduct meaningful audits of election results on the paperless systems, Alexander said voters in the nine e-voting counties should  immediately request an absentee ballot from their county elections office.

"Many voters do not trust electronic voting equipment," Alexander said.  "We want them to know that they have a choice.  They can request an absentee ballot and vote on paper."

Absentee ballot applications are included in the sample ballot pamphlets mailed to all voters by county election offices.  Absentee ballot requests must be received by Tuesday, November 1.

California voters can mail in their completed absentee ballots prior to the election or return them to their polling places on Election Day.  E-voting counties are also required to provide paper ballots to voters at the polls when requested, under election security orders issued by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson.

A recent survey conducted by Alameda County, one of the state's largest e-voting counties, found that 20 percent of its voters prefer to cast paper ballots at the polls.  The survey also found that 45 percent of the county's voters prefer to vote by mail, and nearly one in three felt their votes might not get counted as intended, regardless of the method they used to cast their ballot.  Alameda is planning to reduce its use of e-voting machines and rely more heavily on paper ballots in future elections.

Counties using paperless e-voting systems are home to 26 percent of California's registered voters.  A law passed last year to require a voter-verified paper audit trail to back up every electronic ballot does not take effect until the June 2006 statewide election.

Many counties, however, are not waiting.  For the first time in California, seven counties will use electronic voting equipment with voter-verified paper backups.  Forty-two counties, comprising 68 percent of the state's voters, use paper voting systems.

"Fortunately for California voters, most counties have wisely chosen to rely on paper-based voting systems," Alexander said.  "This will be the last time we see paperless, electronic ballots in a California election."  A high rate of absentee voting is expected in the November 8th election, which Alexander said is a good development. "The more ballots we have backed up on paper, the more secure the results will be."

More information about the November 8 Election, California voting systems, and voting technology reform is available from the California Voter Foundation's web site.

Editors Note - Voters who vote at the polls in California can request a paper ballot to avoid voting on a paperless DRE.
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