Votes Cost More With Technology



A new election headquarters complete with optical scanners, ballot storage, and everything else that is needed to run an election is up and running at the Ada County “Benjamin Lane Campus.”

A public open house is set for Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the new “Election Central” on Benjamin lane behind the Target Store near the Mall on Milwaukee. Access off of either Franklin Road or Emerald west of Milwaukee.

Ada County election czar Chris Rich talked with the GUARDIAN Wednesday about the effects of a new election consolidation law which mandates four dates for elections and has county clerks in charge of ALL elections–from cemetery districts to to statewide races. The result is the potential for 367 different ballot combinations due to overlapping congressional, school, legislative, library districts in the county. It won’t be that bad, but voters do need to realize the simple “X” is a thing of the past.

The next election Rich and his staff are set to run will be the Boise City Council election November 3. That will be handled on a contract basis for the city since the new law won’t take affect until 2011. Another factor they will deal with is the congressional and legislative district boundary changes that come following the 2010 census.

Ballots for the new optical scan voting machines used in Ada County cost more than three times as much as the old “hanging chad” punch cards–30 cents instead of the old 9 cents each. The punch cards are history because there was no one to fix them and they are no longer manufactured.

Visitors will see a 30 foot long chart detailing the various precincts and potential ballot combos for each. One can have as many as 13 different ballots and most others have at least two or three. Previously schools and irrigation districts ran their own elections–often coinciding with parent nights at schools to push bond elections. That will be a thing of the past under the consolidation.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Well, freedom is never free, but if this thing actually works, it may be worth the money.
    Then again, if it crashes election night …..

  2. Fascinating

  3. I suggest we all agree to quit using the term “czar” for people in government and go with an actual title instead.

    EDITOR NOTE–Eric, you wanna spoil all the GUARDIAN fun! We have Commish, Councilor, Team Dave, Guv, Supremes, Coppers, Growthophobes, and now you wanna replace CZAR with, “CHIEF DEPUTY ADA COUNTY CLERK/AUDITOR/RECORDER.” Give me a break. 🙂

  4. The optical scanners are probably the best kind of electronic voting tech currently available. They’re similar to the “Scantron” test sheets that kids have been using in schools at least since I was in JR High (mid 90s) There will be small ovals or bubbles that you’ll fill in with a dark pencil or pen to indicate your choice. The ballots can be read rapidly by a machine for quick counting, but there is still a pretty obvious paper record available for hand counts when the inevitable challenge or dispute arrives. Given the other electronic voting methods available, I’m glad the state went with the scanners – touch screen voting booths and other paperless methods are an absolute nightmare. I personally wouldn’t vote on machines like that as there no way I could be convinced that my vote was counted properly. The electronic scanner is an older, well established technology that leaves a paper trail at least as reliable as the ones left by the punch cards.

    As for the uniform election dates – Bravo! Participation in the myriad of elections, ballot issues and bond proposals can only be enhanced by having set, predictable, days on which elections will occur. School districts hold bond elections on back to school nights to make sure that parents, the people most likely to vote for an election, are the ones given the most notice about and have the best chance to vote for it. If you don’t have a kid in school, are you going to know when back to school night is? Probably not, which means people are missing the chance to have their voice heard, both pro and con. Could be good fir irrigation districts, too. My father has been very active in his irrigation district for years, and getting people to come to the annual meeting to vote on things like repairs or improvements to the district or changes in the annual assessment fee is like pulling teeth. The result is, the “decided minority” (as he puts it) of people who do show up get to run the show for everyone in the district. Maybe now that there’s a specific, Official Voting Day, more people will get involved.

    The next step the state needs to take is mandate uniform ballots – having two and half times the number ballot types as precincts? That’s just absurd.

  5. Cowgirlkeeler
    Aug 27, 2009, 7:11 pm

    Quote~EDITOR NOTE–Eric, you wanna spoil all the GUARDIAN fun! We have Commish, Councilor, Team Dave, Guv, Supremes, Coppers, Growthophobes, and now you wanna replace CZAR with, “CHIEF DEPUTY ADA COUNTY CLERK/AUDITOR/RECORDER.” Give me a break. End of qoute. Its great the paper is having fun but let me clarify that my brother in law isn’t a czar of any sorts but maybe of comic relief character! 🙂 Otherwise a great story!

  6. Voting is a joke if they don’t tell us openly in the mainstream media when an election will be held… Homedale had a $5M stealth school vote.

  7. The fire department in Eagle had a stealth election a few years back – the election was the same day as the regular election but you had to go to a particular fire station to vote for a new station. The bond issue won with less than 300 votes. There were close to 3000 voters at the regular polling place. No one at the regular polling place mentioned it, so I have to assume everyone was on the take.

  8. It seems to me it would be worth the effort to have a ballot printed out for the voter at the time of the election. To be more clear here… rather than have a bunch of waste paper at the end of the election simply print a ballot that is specific to the voter and the election.

    A matrix could be developed that would cover all the elements of the election for any given voter at any given precinct. You have to sign in anyway…how much longer would it take to print a ballot out on a high speed printer for each elector?

    The model here is much the same as when you appear to pick up your airline ticket. You insert your id and the ticket stuff is printed for you specifically and you get your departure point and destination.

    It seems pretty simple to me if some of the whiz-bang computer nerds can get together and cut some code for the end product desired.

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