Dear Councilmember X,
As Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party, I urge you to approve Motion 2007-0240, the recommendation from the Executive to proceed with the purchase of additional ballot tabulation equipment and software. 
This decision will allow King County to join 38 other counties in Washington in conducting an all-mail election in 2008, thus allowing thousands of additional county voters to participate in the election.  The decision will continue the County’s commitment to strengthen the capacity of the Department of Records and Elections to conduct elections in an accurate and timely fashion.
The proposal from the Executive is to purchase new ballot tabulation equipment and software from the Diebold Election Systems Company, which will build on the County’s current Diebold-based system.
This system has served the voters well.
In 2004 ballots were tabulated by the existing Diebold-based system.  Subsequently there was a machine recount, followed by a manual hand re-count – the ultimate possible audit. In each case the accuracy of the present Diebold – based system was confirmed.  While the vote did change between the original tally and the machine recount and the hand re-count, changes in the vote totals were always attributed to ballots added or subtracted to the mix, such as the “voter intent” ballots ruled on by the Canvassing Board.  In fact, the current system has experienced numerous recounts over the years, with no identified failures by the hardware or the software. 
I understand there is a great deal of concern in our community about doing business with Diebold.  Diebold electronic voting systems across the country have been implicated in a myriad of challenged elections. 
Some Diebold systems are dangerous and should not be purchased, but a Diebold system such as the one King County operates has proven to be reliable. 
Similarly, some Ford cars such as the Pinto are dangerous and should not be purchased, but a Ford car such as Larry Phillips’ Explorer has proven to be reliable. 
This is not a proposal to purchase Diebold electronic voting machines – rather to purchase additional Diebold ballot tabulation equipment and software to augment the current Diebold system. 
This is a proposal for handling an all-mail balloting election.  It is important to recognize that all-mail elections require, and thus provide, the ultimate paper trail.  At any time the mail ballots can be retrieved – both for an additional machine recount, or for a hand recount.  When combined with effective random auditing provisions, the Diebold based system proposed by the Executive can provide near–certain barriers to fraud or criminal attempts to alter the vote count as supposed by Diebold critics. 
Nor is this a proposal related to the touch screen voting machines on which voters can cast ballots electronically at polling places.  King County’s touch screen machines are a stand alone system, not being addressed by Motion 2007-0240.
The matter of Certification is a concern.  A decision by the FEC on certifying the proposed system is expected by August or September of this year.  If the Council moves within the next two weeks to contract with Diebold, obviously King County would stipulate that Certification must be  achieved.  If Certification is not achieved you will not be required to purchase the new equipment.  (i.e. – keep your sales receipt!)  You will need to identify and proceed with other strategies for voting in 2008, knowing that all – mail balloting will not longer be possible that year – and that your current system will need some immediate upgrades to handle 2008.
In summary, the recommendation from the Executive to proceed with the purchase of additional ballot tabulation equipment and software is a prudent proposal which builds on a battle-tested system and can allow King County voters to join with the rest of the state in all-mail balloting in 2008.  To delay in making this purchase, or to decline to invest further in our Diebold-based system, will make all-mail balloting impossible in 2008, and will necessitate a complete overhaul of our existing system – a system which has served King County voters well. 
Dwight Pelz
Chair, Washington State Democratic Party