Tuesday, March 28, 2006
By Jonathan Lipman
Aldermen angry about the slow returns from last week's primary demanded hearings and threatened to withhold payment from voting equipment suppliers, though election officials said they lacked authority.
Finance Committee chairman Ald. Ed Burke (14th) said he wants money withheld from California-based Sequoia Voting Systems until a "public inquiry" determined how much fault the company bore for ballot counting problems.
"Ray Charles could see there's something wrong here," said Burke, who was joined by Aldermen William Beavers (7th) and Manuel Flores (1st).
Chicago Board of Election Commissioners chairman Langdon Neal said money will be withheld from Sequoia until after the hearings — but it was up to his commission not the city council.
"Those are federal funds," Neal said. "Maybe there's some confusion ... we control all the funds."
Neal said the board needs to find out how many of the problems relate to training vs. how many were equipment failures by Sequoia.
The Chicago Board of Election still has 41 precincts uncounted, officials said. Suburban Cook County was scheduled to finish counting its last precincts Monday.
Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado has proposed a similar cutoff of payments, though county Clerk David Orr's office said it had no plans to do so.
"Before moving ahead, we still need some assurances from Sequoia that problems will be fixed," spokesman Scott Burnham said.
Burke also was concerned that Sequoia's parent company is based out of Venezuela. Neal said his staff looked into that and found no problems.
Flores plans to introduce an ordinance requiring anyone lobbying the board of elections to register their name publicly, as lobbyists with the city must. Neal said no one lobbied him on the purchase of election equipment, but he agreed that lobbyists should register.
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