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2008-01-24

Measures taken to ensure no election tampering

By Judith Pannebaker

To forestall post-election cries of “foul,” video cameras will be installed in the office of Bandera County Election Administrator Toba Perez.

Under electronic eye
Perez approached county commissioners during the Thursday, Jan. 10, meeting to request permission to purchase and install a surveillance camera to keep a watchful electronic eye over her office and the voting machines stored there. The camera would operate “24-7,” Perez said.

The camera will be tied into a system already used by Tax Assessor-Collector Mae Vion Meyer in her offices at 403 12th Street. Perez told the court, funds originally earmarked for a new printer would be used to purchase the camera, which costs approximately $750. She had already obtained the printer from another source, freeing up the funds for the camera.

According to Perez, people entering her office are not required to sign a log. She cited “security and interest in the voting machines” as necessitating constant monitoring of her office. The camera’s video recordings would be transferred to a DVD every 15 days and kept indefinitely as a permanent record of visitors.

During discussions, County Judge Richard Evans indicated that questions had previously been raised regarding perceived improprieties in past elections. He hoped the camera’s installation would bring rumors and allegations to an end.
The court unanimously approved Perez’s request.

Ensuring against fraud
However, surveillance cameras do not address voters’ calls for paper verification of their electronic votes, which, citizens feel, would ensure against election fraud.

One United States representative plans to introduce a bill into Congress that would offer $600 million of incentives to voting districts that return to paper ballots or devise a viable audit system prior to the November 2008 General Election.

In addition, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act, proposed by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), would make paper ballots the primary record for vote recounts and audits.

“We can’t go into another federal election with machines that do no allow voters to verify their votes and have people in 20 states saying they do not believe the results,” Holt said in a recent interview. According Holt, voters in all or parts of 20 states cast ballots without backup paper verification. His contention hits close to home.

Voters in Bandera County cannot verify their electronic votes. When the 48 voting machines of the Hart InterCivic Voting System were purchased in 2005, in part from federal funds earmarked for the Help America Vote Act, county officials opted not to purchase printers that would have provided voters with a record of their vote.

One elderly voter, who expressed distrust of the county’s electronic system, plans to request an absentee ballot. “That’s the only way I know of to get a paper ballot,” he said in an interview.

Decertified machines
In other bad news for electronic voting systems, Colorado Secretary of State Mike Hoffman decertified thousands of electronic voting machines throughout the state last December. The machines had proved to be inaccurate and insecure, according to an UPI report.

Administrators with Hart InterCivic had previously assured local officials the voting system prevents unauthorized programs from being loaded on the host computer and prohibits the use of standard Windows utilities that could be used to compromise voting results.

Nevertheless, the voting machines decertified in Colorado included Hart InterCivic, as well as Sequoia Voting System and Election Systems and Software.
Precinct 407

In other local business, Perez recommended relocating the Precinct 407 polling place from the 11th Street Courthouse Annex to the Adult Literacy Room in the Bandera County Public Library, 515 Main Street.

Calling the move, “in the best interest of the voters,” Perez cited increased parking and easier accessibility. The new polling place will be up and running by early voting for the Tuesday, March 4, primary election.

Perez also reminded residents the last day to register to vote in the primary is Monday, Feb. 4. Early voting begins Tuesday, Feb. 19.