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Sonoma County selects new voting technology

Sonomans worried about the security of their votes but reluctant to go to an all-digital method will be glad to know that the county is adopting a new voting system to tally their preferences, one that promises a “comprehensive, modern voting system.” Perhaps better yet, it comes from a Canadian company.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved a request by County Clerk William F. Rousseau to contract with Dominion Voting Systems Inc., for a system known as “Democracy Suite version 5.2.”

“The new system has user-friendly paper ballots, which voters told us was one of their top priorities,” said Rousseau in a statement. “Polling places will have modern accessible equipment but because the vast majority of our voters vote by mail, we need a paper-based system.”

Democracy Suite will replace the county’s current 35-year old multi-card ballot and tallying system.

With the Democracy Suite system, voters mark a paper ballot or use a “Ballot Marking Device” (tablet) to mark choices before printing out their ballot on demand.

The ballots are then read by an electronic scanner and the results tabulated by computer, providing faster results and certification.

Sonoma County voters were contacted through a survey in April, and while two-thirds of the respondents supported replacing the current system, a full 75 percent expressed a preference for a paper-based system.

The second-most requested feature was that a new system prevent hacking. The paper ballot provides an “audit trail” to verify any questionable election result.

Dominion was founded in 2002 in Toronto, and has recently won contracts for voting technology in Michigan, Colorado and Puerto Rico, according to their website.

Preparations for the transition to the new system will begin soon; however, voters will not use Democracy Suite ballots or accessible voting equipment in polling places until 2019.

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