FROM:   Kim Alexander
DATE:   February 26, 2003
RE:   Santa Clara OKs voter-verified touchscreen pilot project

Hi Folks,

Yesterday the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to support the county executive's and registrar of voter's recommendation to enter into a contract with Sequoia Voting Systems for new touchscreen voting machines.

The supervisors also approved a number of provisions outlined in a memo drafted by Supervisor Pete McHugh which, among other things, calls for a pilot project this November to test touchscreen machines that produce a voter-verified paper audit trail and requires Sequoia to add printers to their machines at a later date at no additional cost should the state require it. McHugh's memo is online at

The meeting discussion and the McHugh memo are somewhat confusing, resultingin conflicting news reports today about what happened. From what I can tell so far, it appears that though the supervisors did not outright endorse a voter-verified paper trail touchscreen system, they did leave the door open to modify their system, should their voters want it or should the state require it if certification standards are changed in the future.

The pilot project could help Santa Clara and other counties throughout California and the country learn more about the logistics of offering a voter-verified audit trail as well as an opportunity to learn from voters themselves which system they prefer -- paperless touchscreen or touchscreen with a voter-verified paper back-up.

Supervisor Liz Kniss expressed serious concerns about the county's proposed contract during the meeting, and sought to delay the board's vote by several more weeks. At the meeting Kniss said, "We are looking at first-generation models when second-generation models exist, and I'm very troubled by that.''

On Monday, the Secretary of State's new touchscreen voting task force held our first meeting in San Francisco. Santa Clara's decision to pursue a pilot project this November means that procedures and standards for generating a voter-verified paper trail need to be established at the state level as soon as possible for that pilot to go forward. For my part, I will endeavor to get those needs addressed at the state level through the task force.

More news about Santa Clara's decision is available in today's San Jose Mercury News: Yesterday an Associated Press story ran nationwide and is available online at

Kim Alexander, California Voter Foundation, , (916) 441-2494

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This page was first published on February 26, 2003 | Last updated on February 26, 2003
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