A quick check of the world shows that countries with the most democratic elections do better than others; so when it became apparent that election machinery in the United States had fallen way below par, some officials stepped up to look toward elections of the future. One of them is Inyo County Clerk/ Recorder Kammi Foote.
Clerk Foote let the Inyo Supervisors know last week that Inyo’s voting equipment now slides toward end of life, as do many other counties’ election machines. Foote posed options that include new equipment, more vote by mail or saving for the 2016 election.
At the end of last year, Foote was instrumental in formation of a new statewide organization called California Association of Voting Officials. As President of this group, Foote holds strong views for the future. She said the efforts of CAVO started a year ago when a proposed Assembly Bill called for a pilot project for online voting. Foote volunteered Inyo with it’s very small, remote desert towns where post offices were about to close.
The bill did not go forward, but Foote’s offer as a pilot project drew dozens of contacts from around the nation and the world. Many fear the ultimate failure of current technologies in voting. With Digital 395 available, Foote saw an open door for change in Inyo. She learned about public domain software, called Open Source technology, that governments can use inexpensively. She said this kind of software is actually more secure with thousands looking at its operation.
The voting organization that Foote heads up may likely provide the stage for software development. Foote said Senate Bill 360 recently offered regulatory relief for elections and Open Source software can be used on any off-the-shelf computer. Foote said the goal would be to have a new system in place for the 2016 elections.
As for Inyo’s current voting system, Foote said it’s like many other counties – working but definitely antiquated technology. She said one component is as old as 8-track cartridges. Foote said, “It’s a very precarious position to be in.” She believes the Inyo system is reliable through the 2014 election, but she recommends an update for the 2016 elections.
Clerk Foote said, “To have a democracy, you have to be able to vote. The current software we use is from 2002.” She said the Secretary of State can approve of a County developing its own voting system.
Decisions and changes lie ahead for many. The past 14 years saw fits and starts to change but got hung up on the ballot chad controversy in the year 2000, big expenditures on improvements two years later and then in 2007 fears of system hackers and new restrictions. Today, most use paper ballots. A presidential commission has just issued recommendations for voting improvements.