Thursday, June 01, 2006

Northwestern: Don't Rush Into Diebold, Chairman Albrecht!

Thank you, Northwestern, for this editorial

Editorial: County shouldn't rush to purchase voting machines

Winnebago County's rush to judgment to purchase touch screen voting machines is a disservice to citizens with grave concerns about the technology.

Winnebago County Board Chairman David Albrecht hasn't spelled out any compelling reason to push for quicker action in the face of controversy surrounding the touch-screen voting machines. Albrecht canceled a scheduled committee meeting on the subject in preference for moving the issue to the full county board, with a possible vote being taken on June 14. That effectively limits public debate on the topic.

There's no compelling reason for the county to rush the issue at the expense of a full public discussion.

Admittedly, the touch-screen voting machines have an appeal. They'll help the county comply with the Help America Vote Act that demands greater accessibility for people with disabilities. The Diebold touch-screen machines under review also connect technologically with paper-ballot scanning machines now in use. And we may end up buying Diebold touch-screen machines. But the county's credibility depends on avoiding the appearance of stiffling public debate to railroad a purchase.

Logic demands a public hearing to air concerns about how accurately a touch-screen machine truly transfers the decision made on the screen into a real vote.

Logic demands answers to questions about how touch-screen machines will perform in the event of a recount where voter intent must be verified.

Logic also demands that if supervisors are going to hear a sales pitch from one of the four state-approved vendors of HAVA-compliant machines that the county should hear the sales pitch from the three other vendors. Our county will commit a serious breach of business ethics that may land it in court with so much preference shown to Diebold.

Again, what should happen is to have a June 14 committee hearing to examine the available machines. Answer the concerns about touch-screen machines. Let people air other issues. Government isn't in the business to squlech public discussion. Remember, the decision made – even with state grant money paying for the purchase – will affect our county for many years.

Government integrity demands openness on all counts. Fast-tracking a purchase with long-term effects isn't right. Chairman Albrecht should see that his credibility and government's credibility depends on moving carefully when more questions are raised, instead of moving more quickly.

The Final Thought: County government should hold a hearing June 14 to investigate concerns about voting machines.

Once again, let Chairman Albrecht know you want him to slow down and make sure your questions are answered:

Chairman Albrecht's email address is - his phone number is (920) 235-4959



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