SACRAMENTO — The state’s top election official on Wednesday proposed several election-system changes, including a proposal to give counties $230 million for better voting technology.
Secretary of State Bill Jones said that while no major problems were evident in California’s election, Florida’s ongoing recount of votes for president shows the need for a strong set of election procedures.
“Think of the thousands, and thousands, and thousands of elections in California where nobody has said a word. We have a good system, but it can get better,” Jones said. The $230 million package is less than the $300 million proposed Tuesday by Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg.
The money would likely buy touch-screen computers that voters can use to cast a ballot electronically.
Proponents of the computers point out the computers are not networked and have a smaller chance of being struck by viruses or hackers.
Touch-screen computers were used in early voting programs in eight counties during the November election.
Those counties were San Mateo, Marin, Trinity, Tulare, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Alameda and Monterey. Riverside County used the computers on Election Day in every precinct. Alameda County Registrar of Voters Brad Clark said some counties are still using 50-year-old technology because little state money is available for upgrades.
“When it is the choice between a new voting system that may only be used once every so many years and the police force– you understand the problem,” Clark said.
Jones acknowledged that the $230 million upgrade would not solve technology problems, since one touch-screen computer can cost more than $2,000. Increased use of the computers and competition between suppliers could help bring down the price, he said.
Jones also proposed that already existing guidelines used for recounts in all counties be adopted into law. That would also avoid legal problems like the ones surfacing in Florida, he said.
Other proposed changes include:
— Notifying voters if their absentee ballots are rejected;
— Laws requiring voters to present identification at the polls;
— Improving the process by which voters’ registration forms collected at the Department of Motor Vehicles;
— $10 million for voter education projects highlighting registration deadlines and the voting process; and
— A technology fair where vendors can show cutting-edge technologies to voters.
On the Net:
Secretary of State: http://www.ss.ca.gov