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San Mateo Daily News


January 8, 2008


By Shaun Bishop / Daily News Staff Writer



Voting contract changing
County's move will not affect use of e-machines



Two contracts with the company that makes San Mateo County's electronic voting machines are slated to be scaled back at a Board of Supervisors meeting tonight.

The changes will not affect the county's use of the eSlate machines, made by Austin-based Hart InterCivic, Inc., which were rolled out en masse for the first time during last November's election.

The county plans to eliminate the smaller of the two contracts, which are worth a total of $11.5 million, and will cut out a peripheral agreement that was part of the second contract. The contract being eliminated stated that Hart InterCivic would provide the county with a new recorder system.

The system would have replaced the county's existing software that keeps the official county archives of items such as real estate transactions, births, deaths and marriages.

But last August, Hart InterCivic sold the recorder portion of its business for $4.8 million to Missouri-based Manatron, Inc., which subsequently declined to take on San Mateo County as a customer.

The system hadn't yet been installed, so the county will simply nix that contract, which would have cost the county $880,000 through August 2010.

"We did our best to do the right thing with our current customers, to communicate with them," said Peter Lichtenheld, director of marketing for elections for Hart InterCivic.

Under a provision of the second contract, Hart InterCivic was also supposed to develop a voter registration management system for the county worth $266,000, but it became clear that the company could not deliver the product as fast as the county wanted it, said David Tom, county elections manager. That obligation will also be eliminated.

That the plan didn't work out is disappointing "but it allows us to look around and see if there's other options," Tom said.

To sweeten the breaking of the deal, Hart InterCivic agreed to give the county three years of free maintenance on its voting machines, a perk worth about $500,000.

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Primary voting starts now for early birds

Voting in the California presidential primary started Monday and officials say "decline-to-state" voters could play a big role in the contests.

Residents who want to vote before the Feb. 5 election can visit one of San Mateo County's two elections offices - at 40 Tower Road in San Mateo or 555 County Center in Redwood City - during business hours, or from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 26 and Feb. 2.

Mail-in ballots were sent to the post office on Monday and should arrive in voters' mailboxes in the next few days, said Elections Manager David Tom.

Voters who have declined to affiliate with a party will be allowed to vote in the Democratic or American Independent contests. The nonpartisan ballot will have no candidates for president listed, and decline-to-state voters who vote by mail must request a ballot from a participating party by Jan. 29.

The number of voters who decline to state their affiliation has grown by nearly a quarter since 2004 in the county to make up 23.1 percent of all voters.

The deadline to register to vote or change party status is Jan. 22.

For more information, visit