Dec. 30, 2005


County borrows voting machines

It will cost about $30,000 to ship the units here from Nevada for elections this spring.


By Jeff Switzer

Herald Writer


Four hundred electronic voting machines arrived Thursday from Reno, Nev., to keep Snohomish County's upcoming elections legal.


Voters will use the borrowed machines in school district elections this spring.


Without the machines, Snohomish County would be forced to use its own, which lack special vote audit devices ordered by the Legislature.


Starting Sunday, all electronic voting machines used in Washington must have voter-verifiable paper audit trails - mini printers that allow voters to review the accuracy of their votes before formally casting a ballot.


Snohomish County can't buy its own devices because the state hasn't certified devices that work with the county's Edge I voting machines, which are manufactured by Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting Systems.


The borrowed machines are the newer Sequoia Edge II model and come with certified devices.


Issues in nine school districts will be on ballots in February, March and May, plus two fire districts.


The county expects to pay about $30,000 to transport and insure the Nevada voting machines, worth more than $1 million, and plans to send the bill to the school and fire districts on the ballots.


After the spring elections, the days could be numbered for the county's electronic voting machines.


County Democrats, including Executive Aaron Reardon, auditor Bob Terwilliger and the new Democratic majority on the County Council, say they plan to consider switching to all-mail elections starting with the 2006 primary election.


By switching to all-mail elections, the county avoids the cost of permanently upgrading the electronic machines with the required paper audit devices.


The county would have to spend about $860,000 to buy the machines. An additional $686,000 in storage and other costs is anticipated.


Those costs are avoided with an all-mail election system, election officials said.


Meanwhile, Snohomish County still faces a lawsuit filed in April by Everett attorney Paul Lehto and John Wells. The two claimed the county's contract with Sequoia improperly cedes control over elections.


Snohomish County's electronic voting machines haven't had the problems seen in California with machines by vendors Diebold and ES&S, county elections manager Carolyn Diepenbrock said.


"We have the utmost confidence in our electronic voting machines and the Sequoia voting system," she said. "They're tested prior to going to a poll site, and they're tested when come back from a poll site," and perform as intended.


"We have worked very hard to maintain the integrity and security in our system."


Reporter Jeff Switzer: 425-339-3452 or


Copyright 2005 The Daily Herald Co., Everett, Wash.



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