Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Eureka Times-Standard: As primary fast approaches, election offices are in turmoil

Monday's Eureka Times-Standard has a front page story that continues on the back page called "As primary fast approaches, election offices are in turmoil" (archive).

This article describes some of the fallout experienced by elections departments throughout CA in the wake of Secretary of State Debra Bowen's Top To Bottom Review. Humboldt is depicted as being on relatively stable footing, and though that may be the case, no mention is made that there has still been no Election Manager named to replace Lindsey McWilliams, who left in June. The last hiring update I got was at the Nov. 20 Election Advisory Committee meeting when Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich told us she was checking references on three candidates and didn't have a time frame for making a decision. She also emphasized that she was not feeling desperate because current staff is performing great. So none of that was in the article.

T-S reporter Thadeus Greenson does paint a very favorable picture of the Humboldt Transparency Project, including referencing David Dill, Bev Harris, and Harri Hursti. There was not even a hint of irony in describing Hursti "who famously hacked into Diebold voting machines." Excuse me, but it wasn't just Diebold voting machines, it included the exact equipment we use here in Humboldt. No criticisms of the Transparency Project were included, though I have detailed several on many occasions, as recently as Saturday. That may get recycled into the letter to the editor or My Word column this will prompt me to write.

As with many previous T-S articles, this one contains false balance. This is probably the biggest issue I have with this story. While there are no quotes from VCC members our group is mentioned:

Still, some feel Bowen's decision didn't go far enough and the optical scan vote counting machines are also inaccurate and susceptible to hacking.

The Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt County released a report on voting conditions in the county that called for a complete transition to hand counting for all ballots. While Crnich said this would put a tremendous strain on poll workers and the election office, she isn't convinced it would be any more reliable than the machine counts and hand-count audits are in place.

"It's just not a practical solution," Crnich said.

But Humboldt's committee is far from the only ones calling for hand counting, which they say is both practical and more accurate than machines counting.

Earlier this month, the committee and 30 other election integrity groups joined an amicus brief in the suit brought against New York State by the Department of Justice. The brief argues hand counting paper ballots is compliant with the Help America Vote Act, and asks the court to order the two federal races on the state's next ballot to be hand counted.

Meanwhile, the Humboldt Committee is busy recruiting Humboldt voters willing to hand count ballots come election day. But Crnich said no such hand counting will take place. She said the procedures are simply not in place, but visitors are welcome to observe election-night happenings according to Bowen's guidelines.
This is false balance because the Registrar offers an opinion with nothing to back it up. How do I know? Because the VCC has asked, repeatedly, and the Registrar does not have data comparing hand-counting and optical scan counting for cost, accuracy or anything else. Yet her dismissive opinion is supposed to balance the VCC recommendations, which come backed by our report (and many others), and tangible projections that will allow the community to judge what is practical. Naturally our ability to take the discussion out of the range of "he said/she said" was left out of the article.

One more bone to pick. This article refers to a lawsuit brought by San Diego County to push back against Bowen's new guidelines. But it does not mention the memory cards that disappeared from a FedEx shipment last week en route from Sacramento to San Diego. If its balance ye want, I'm just sayin'...

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