Thursday, October 05, 2006

Northwestern does story on my Diebold resolution:

Supervisor urges county to withhold Diebold payment

Company: Problems fixable for November

By Bethany K. Warner of The Northwestern

Winnebago County Board Supervisor Jef Hall is proposing that the county withhold paying Diebold Election Systems for the county's new touch-screen voting machines because they did not perform as promised during the September
primary election.

Hall, the supervisor for the district that includes much of the central city of Oshkosh, wants the county to sit on the payment for the touch-screen voting machines because those machines did not communicate as promised with the county's existing optical scan voting machines following the September primary election. The county board agreed in June to spend $288,000 for the 50 machines.

After polls closed for the primary election in September, the county clerk had to add by hand votes cast on the touch-screen machines to the totals generated from the county's older optical scan machines.

Hall said that shows that the county was sold on the Diebold system with promises that were not true.

"If we were sold something on a fraudulent basis," Hall said, "I don't think we should pay for them until the time they do as we were told."

The problem on election night, state elections board officials said in September, was that a key piece of technology that allows the two systems to tally results together had not yet received federal or state approval for use in elections.

But the company and local election officials on Monday insisted that the problems were a one-time glitch that stemmed not from the technology, but rather from the design of the primary election ballots. That problem can be corrected for the Nov. 7 election, they said.

David Bear, a spokesman for Diebold Elections Systems, said the optical-scan and touch-screen machines should communicate with each other if the ballots are designed properly. Bear said he was unaware of any additional piece of voting or counting equipment waiting on approval.

"I don't think so. It was a matter of having to layout a ballot to have a special need for write-ins," Bear said.

The problem that delayed final vote totals after the primary should be corrected by November, said Winnebago County Clerk Sue Ertmer.

Ertmer said Diebold has told her that the machines will communicate without a problem with the November ballot. That ballot is currently waiting for state approval.

Ertmer said she knew that results in September would have to be hand-tabulated but acknowledges she did not alert the county board to that fact.

The money for the voting machines will ultimately be reimbursed to the county by the federal government. The county selected Diebold's touch-screen machines to meet a requirement of the Help America Vote Act to provide voting machines that improve access for disabled voters.

Hall's request goes before the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Friday.

"They don't live up to their commitment and I think we should hold them to that in Winnebago county," Hall said.



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