Big Tab Covers Voting Device Retrofit

Times Staff Writer

Orange County supervisors Tuesday approved spending $12 million to retrofit 9,000 electronic voting machines to give voters printed displays of their ballot choices, an expense required by state law for the June election.

Acting county Registrar Neal Kelley said the action came just in time and followed certification of the retrofitted equipment Friday by the secretary of state’s office.

A team of 60 will begin cutting holes in voting booths Monday to accommodate the new printers, which also must undergo several tests before being cleared for use.


“It’ll be quite an operation,” Kelley said.

The county’s next balloting, a special election April 11 to fill a vacant state Senate seat, will be conducted with paper ballots because the new equipment won’t be ready.

The retrofit became necessary after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law in 2004 requiring counties to have printers attached to their electronic voting devices for elections this year. The aim is to allow voters to review their choices and catch any errors before casting their ballots. The printouts also are to be used for official recounts.

Voting-rights activists lobbied hard for the law, saying printed records provided better security against fraud and equipment malfunctions. Election officials statewide initially complained about the cost of adding the printers, which aren’t eligible for reimbursement under a 2000 federal law requiring the phase-out of paper ballots nationwide.

The state law requires counties to be eventually reimbursed for the cost of additional equipment, though counties had to pay for it up front.

Some counties, including Los Angeles, plan to avoid the expense by continuing to use paper ballots and scanning them electronically.

Kelley said he expected the state and federal governments to combine resources and reimburse counties for all costs of providing new voting systems.

Printer retrofit systems have been approved for 20 of California’s 58 counties, with another 20 awaiting federal review before the state can certify them, secretary of state spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns said Tuesday.

The remaining counties have paper printout systems already in place or don’t plan to use electronic voting.