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Voting machines certified for county

Nevada County’s new voting system has been approved by the state, but results from February’s presidential primary still could be slow in arriving on election night because they will have to be driven to Nevada City for the final tally.

Nevada County enjoyed electronic tallying from its far-flung voting sites for many years, County Clerk-Recorder Gregory Diaz said Tuesday. But new election rules from California Secretary of State Debra Bowen now prohibit that, due to concerns about maintaining the integrity of the transmitted information.

“The greatest impact is that voting results can no longer be electronically sent to the main computer,” Diaz said.



That means results from polling places located in North San Juan, Washington and Truckee may be slow to arrive at the Rood Administrative Center for the primary election on Feb. 5, 2008.

Diaz warned that “if we have inclement weather Feb. 5, the drive from Truckee could be slow.”




A number of rural county election officials and Diaz are working with Bowen to get a secure electronic sending system in place for the primary, Diaz said. But there is no guarantee that will occur.

Despite the information flow problem, the county now can put its new $1.3 million Hart Intercivic Voting System into place to meet new federal voting guidelines for the disabled, Diaz said.

In recent months, Bowen’s office has been struggling with counties to review and certify several new voting systems that meet the federal standards. She sent Diaz a letter last week saying Nevada County’s new system satisfies her requirements for security against people trying to hack into the system.

Each of the county’s polling places will include an optional electronic voting machine that can be used by anyone who wishes at the county’s 55 polling places.

“Most people will still use the paper ballot, fill in the bubble and then put it into the optical scanner,” Diaz said. “It will be very much the same.”

The new system scanner will kick a ballot out if a voter has not filled in a bubble on a particular race, Diaz said. That voter can stick with the under-voted ballot or have it destroyed before filling out a new one.

Conversely, a person who fills in too many bubbles for a race will be alerted to an over-vote, Diaz said. That voter can have the ballot destroyed and a new one issued; but if they stick with the original, the over-vote for that particular race will be counted as no vote at all.

In that case, “We can’t determine the intent of the voter,” Diaz explained.

Those who want to vote early in the primary can do so at the elections office in the Rood Center in Nevada City beginning Jan. 7, Assistant Clerk-Recorder Susan German said. About 21,000 absentee ballots will be mailed that same day, German said.

Those ballots will not be called “absentee” anymore, due to a new state law, German and Diaz said. They will now be called “vote by mail” ballots.

In recent elections, 53 percent of all county ballots cast came from mail voters. The county has 60,000 registered voters.

In August, Diaz told the Board of Supervisors he eventually would like to see all-mail balloting to save money and ensure a secure paper trail of votes.

In that scenario, he also would open about five strategically placed polling places around the county for the disabled and those who insist on casting their ballot in the traditional way.

In a recent letter to Diaz, Bowen said she liked his plan, but still had reservations. Some people might not trust the Postal Service, and others might insist on voting at a traditional polling place, she said.

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To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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