San Francisco seeks reimbursement for election problems


By Rachel Konrad



5:53 p.m. November 7, 2007


SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco wants the nation's largest elections systems vendor to reimburse the city because of problems during Tuesday's mayoral election.


San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera demanded Wednesday that Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems & Software Inc. pay the overtime expenses for city workers, security guards and sheriffs who will be involved in manually counting thousands of ballots. Herrera said workers must inspect ballots 24 hours a day for at least a week, and official voting outcomes could be delayed until workers finish a tedious hand count.


San Francisco has been using 652 ES&S Optech IIP-E Eagle optical-scan machines in polling places since 2000. But in September, Secretary of State Debra Bowen said the Eagles were having troubles “that simply cannot be overlooked.”


Bowen said Eagles could only be used to determine whether someone voted for too many candidates or measures (known as overvoting) or failed to vote for certain candidates or measures (known as undervoting).


But she didn't certify Eagles for vote counting, saying that would have to be done in a central voting location with different tabulating machines – in San Francisco's case, City Hall. Bowen also said ES&S would pay for extra costs.


“Under the contract, it's clear ES&S has to follow requirements and they necessarily have to pay for costs,” Deputy City Attorney Ann O'Leary said Tuesday.


San Francisco is also demanding ES&S pay for problems with hardware used Tuesday by disabled voters.


In April 2006, San Francisco purchased 565 AutoMARK machines from ES&S for $3.5 million. City officials thought they were buying the Model A100 versions, which were certified as vote-marking hardware for voters who couldn't mark paper.


Instead, ES&S delivered Model A200s, which were not certified for Tuesday's election. City attorneys said ES&S executives didn't notify election officials of the switch – and ES&S included instruction manuals for Model A100.


When officials realized they had uncertified equipment, they borrowed 600 certified machines from Contra Costa County. San Francisco is demanding that ES&S pay the costs of moving the machines, and it's asking ES&S to provide certified machines for the February primary.


ES&S spokesman Ken Fields said in an e-mail that the company has “met our contractual obligations to San Francisco.” ES&S has provided staff members, equipment and other resources to help the city process ballots 24 hours a day, he said, and ES&S “would be willing to pay related shipping and storage costs and conduct preventive maintenance on those units.”


“ES&S has a long history of helping jurisdictions conduct accurate and smooth running elections,” Fields wrote.


Associated Press Writer Marcus Wohlsen contributed to this report.

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