County unaffected by ruling on chads |

County unaffected by ruling on chads

A court ruling ordering California to rid itself of punch-card ballots by 2004 has a handful of counties wondering how they’ll finance the costly switch, while Nevada County breathes a sigh of relief.

Nevada County isn’t affected by the ruling because it doesn’t use the punch-card system, said county Clerk-Recorder Lorraine Jewett-Burdick.

“We have an optical-scan balloting system, in which voters blacken ovals rather than punch holes in the ballot,” she said.

U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ruled in Los Angeles Tuesday that “hanging chad” voting machines must be replaced by the 2004 elections, more than a year before the deadline set by Secretary of State Bill Jones.

Jones had ordered all Votomatic and Pollstar punch-card systems – used by Alameda, Los Angeles, Mendocino, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Clara, Shasta and Solano counties – to be replaced by July 2005.

Los Angeles County election officials called Tuesday’s decision “catastrophic,” saying two years isn’t enough to implement a more accurate system.

Sacramento County officials are scrambling to come up with the potential $25 million needed to replace their 6,000 punch-card machines before the 2004 deadline.

Jewett-Burdick said Nevada County recognized the perils of the punch-card voting system in 1994, and switched to optical scanning.

She cautioned, however, that voters need to know they must completely blacken the oval for their vote to be counted.

“Nevada County’s equivalent to the ‘hanging chad’ occurs if voters do not completely blacken the oval, which means the ballot scanner can’t count that vote,” Jewett-Burdick said.

About 200 of the approximately 57,000 votes cast in the November 2000 general election were recorded as undervotes, Jewett-Burdick said.

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