City, e-voting vendor settle multimillion dollar suit

The city of San Francisco and the vendor for the city's former computer voting systems have reached a multi-million dollar settlement, the San Francisco City Attorney's office announced today.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced the $3.5 million settlement with Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems and Software, after the city sued ES&S on Nov. 20 for costs it incurred in meeting new state certification requirements for the company's AutoMARK ballot marking devices.

Problems with the ES&S machines resulted in prolonged hand counts of votes in the Nov. 6 election. Elections officials were not able to certify the results until Dec. 7.

San Francisco paid $3.79 million for more than 500 of the voting machines in 2006, according to the city attorney's office.

Under the agreement, ES&S will now pay $3.5 million in return for the devices, and the lawsuit will be dismissed, the city attorney's office reported.

As part of the agreement, ES&S does not admit any liability, according to the city attorney's office. Further, the city has agreed to reimburse ES&S for any outstanding invoices for voting supplies and services.

“I am gratified that we were able to quickly come to an agreement that will allow us to enter the next election cycle with equipment that meets state standards,” said Herrera.

ES&S Senior Vice President John Groh called the agreement “a creative approach that benefits both parties.”

“We will continue to doall that we can to support the election-related needs of jurisdictions in California and other states,” Groh said.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors still needs to approve the agreement.

On Dec. 11, by a 9-2 vote, the Board of Supervisors authorized a new, four-year, $12.65 million contract with Sequoia Voting Systems, Inc., though some supervisors expressed concern about the new system's long-term viability.

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