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County Will Seek Instant Runoff Voting Machines By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday September 02, 2005

Alameda County Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to call for proposals from voting machine vendors who can provide both a verifiable paper trail and the capacity for instant runoff voting (IRV). 

Berkeley City Councilmember Kris Worthington, who attended the meeting, hailed the vote as a small but significant step forward. 

“If nothing else, the proposals will give us proposals with specific costs,” he said. 

The county currently uses equipment and software from Diebold Election Systems Inc., the firm Democratic Party activists love to hate. 

Critics have charged that Diebold machines were manipulated to give inflated vote totals for George W. Bush in the last presidential election, and hackers have pointed to vulnerabilities in the company’s software. 

But the firm’s biggest problem came in June, when the California secretary of state’s office reported that of 96 of Diebold’s machines with paper audit capability, 19 had failed when tested by the state. 

Alameda County officials immediately began exploring alternatives because state law requires paper-verifiable machines in time for next June’s primary elections. 

Since Berkeley voters approved IRV elections by an overwhelming majority last year, Worthington and City Council colleagues Max Anderson and Mayor Tom Bates have urged the county supervisors to require that bidders for a replacement system offer IRV along with the paper trail. 

Worthington said that the bidders who answer the call for proposals issued Tuesday could still lose out to Diebold if the company fixes its paper problems. 

The supervisors are scheduled to act on the bids in November, Worthington said.