SAVE R VOTE: The People Can Exercise Their Power

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By Paul Jacobs / The Californian / July 8, 2006

SAVE R VOTE's Project Director Tom Courbat [Coordinator for Election Defense Alliance's Election Monitoring Group] was finance director for the county of Riverside from 1992 to 1994. The county won awards when it trusted Courbat with its finances and county officials should support and enact his recommendations to account for our privatized votes.

I have largely avoided the subject of electronic voting in recent columns while the SAVE R VOTE (Safe And Verifiable Elections Require Voter Observation of Touchscreen Equipment) project of Democracy for America ---- Temecula Valley (DFA-TV) has been in operation. The project report will be released this week.

In January, Jeff Stone and the other county supervisors declined DFA-TV's recommendation of forming a citizen's voting integrity commission, so it became necessary for citizens to independently organize an unofficial observation of the June 6 primary election. The SAVE R VOTE report will be presented to the supervisors at their Tuesday meeting.

More than 50 volunteers participated in a coordinated effort exercising their legal right to observe the electoral process. Individuals and members of various civic groups monitored eight polling places, working together toward a solitary goal of protecting and preserving our democracy.

Virtually every aspect of voting was evaluated, from early voting at The Promenade mall to the roving voting vehicle. Polling places were monitored from election-eve setup to closing on Election Day. Voting cartridges and the new VeriVote printers were followed from the polling place to the pickup location for delivery to the Registrar of Voters office. A portion of the counting of early, absentee, paper, provisional and electronic ballots was observed.

I have been involved in the SAVE R VOTE project and privy to a preview of some of the data collected. The report reveals that although voter turnout was extremely low, the failure rate of the brand-new voting and printing machines approached 20 percent. While it was reported that most poll workers diligently handled Election Day activities, there were egregious gaps in the chain of custody of election cartridges after the polls closed, including the disappearance of 17 voting cartridges that were accounted for days later.

Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore has been resistant to allowing citizens access to the counting of our votes. Even the legally required election panel is kept at a distance that denies meaningful observation of election workers sitting at tables auditing our votes. Dunmore's arbitrary rules prohibited the use of tripods, but allowed for the videotaping of the verification process until workers came across a problem and raised a flag at their table, at which point the camera was to be shut off.

It was relatively easy for the grassroots group to recruit poll watchers from all walks of life and different political persuasions because the inherent importance of protecting our votes and ensuring that election laws are followed is not lost on most people. The level of voluntary public participation in this civic effort confirms that election integrity is now a mainstream issue that will not go away.

SAVE R VOTE's Project Director Tom Courbat was finance director for the county of Riverside from 1992 to 1994. The county won awards when it trusted Courbat with its finances and county officials should support and enact his recommendations to account for our privatized votes.

The SAVE R VOTE project demonstrates that the people have the power to take the matter of election integrity into their own hands. Citizens will stand to protect this democracy when officeholders fail their essential obligations.

Paul Jacobs of Temecula is a regular columnist for The Californian. E-mail: TemeculaPaul@aol.com.