Riverside County Using New Voting Equipment in Election

Tuesday is Election Day for many city councils and school boards across Southern California. In Riverside County, the biggest challenge is in the voter registrar's office, where revamped electronic voting equipment will get its first real-world test. KPCC's Inland Empire reporter Steven Cuevas says the new gear replaces a system California's Secretary of State decertified in June.

Steven Cuevas: It's the last time the county can use those decertified e-voting machines – at least until the company that makes the machines can solve a number of alleged security problems. That means the county will be forced to go "paper" at all polling places by next February's presidential primary.

[Sound of voting machine]

Registrar Barbara Dunmore: Whether it be Mark-A-Vote or Optec, we're not sure. Yes, in February, you will see many more voting booths. (laughs)

Cuevas: Riverside County Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore showed off a pair of optical scanner tabulation machines at election headquarters last month. They count paper ballots at rapid speed. They'll be used in this election to tabulate absentee and mail-in ballots.

The county wants to see how the scanners perform now, because it might have to use paper ballots in the February presidential primary. The scanners are on loan from Sequoia Voting Systems, the same company whose e-voting machines were decertified last summer. The tabulators are certified – but they're also raising concern.

Tom Courbat: When ballots go through machines, you have no way of knowing whether that machine has been programmed to, say, every tenth vote flip from Bob to Joe.

Cuevas: Tom Courbat is with the election watchdog group "Save R Vote."

Courbat: These machines are using 1990s technology. They do not have digital imaging and what it allows is, as every ballot goes through the scanner, it creates a photo of every ballot. That way, if a ballot is lost or destroyed, you will always still have a physical image you can call up and count with your eyes.

Cuevas: Courbat and other election watchers are calling on Riverside County to break ties with Sequoia Voting Systems, and return to an all-paper ballot system until a more secure electronic system can be put in place.