State: S.F. may have been swindled

The company that sold San Francisco $3.8 million worth of electronic voting equipment is being scrutinized by California’s secretary of state, who said the machines delivered might be different, and thus uncertified, than those ordered.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced Tuesday that a public hearing Sept. 20 will examine whether Elections Systems & Software Inc. sold uncertified voting machines to as many as five counties in the state — including San Francisco.

Questions about the ES&S certification procedures is not a new concern for San Francisco. In May, Bowen sent the company a letter saying her office would not grant an extension on the certification of The City’s machine rank-choice-voting program — leaving city officials with no other choice than to prepare for a possible hand count of the expected 3 million-plus votes in November.

The ES&S AutoMARK Version 1.0, also known as Phase One, is an electronic ballot-marking device certified by the state in August 2005. ES&S is purported to have sold an uncertified Phase Two version of AutoMARK to five counties — San Francisco, Colusa, Marin, Merced and Solano — in 2006, according to the Secretary of State, “If ES&S has broken the law and misled counties into buying nearly 1,000 uncertified machines, I intend to go afterthe company for the full $9.72 million in penalties allowable by law, along with the original $5 million the company took from counties’ pockets,” Bowen said, who estimated the cost of each machine at approximately $5,000.

Of the five counties, San Francisco purchased the largest number of the ES&S machines in question, 558, which cost $3.8 million, said The City’s Election Department head, John Arntz.

“No one ever knew there was a Phase Two,” Arntz said. “There was just an AutoMARK the counties could buy.”

The state is working to create a contingency plan for San Francisco, said Nicole Winger, spokeswoman for the secretary of state.

ES&S sent out a statement Tuesday in response to Bowen’s announcement, saying the company “has the greatest respect” for the required certification processes and “will certainly work with the State of California as this process moves forward.”

beslinger@examiner.com


What should The City do about counting votes?

Share your comments below.

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Parents and students line up socially distanced before the first day of in-person learning at Bret Harte Elementary School on Monday, April 12, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
‘It’s a beautiful sight’: The first students return to the classroom

San Francisco’s youngest public school students stepped into classrooms for in-person learning… Continue reading

File
Latest Breed nominee for Police Commission moves forward

Immigration attorney Jim Byrne clears Board of Supervisors committee

San Francisco Giants pitcher Anthony DeSclafani (26) starts against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on April 11, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).
Giants finish sweep of Rockies behind DeSclafani’s scoreless outing

Even with fans back at Oracle Park, San Francisco Giants pitchers have… Continue reading

Kindergarten teacher Chris Johnson in his classroom at Bryant Elementary School ahead of the school’s reopening on Friday, April 9, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFUSD students are going back to the classroom

After more than a year of distance learning, city schools begin reopening on Monday

Keith Zwölfer, director of education for SFFILM, stays busy connecting filmmakers and studios with public, private and home schools<ins>. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner) </ins>
Streamlined SF film festival focuses on family features

SFFILM Director of Education Keith Zwölfer finds movies that appeal to kids

Most Read