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Friday, June 2, 2000

Hawaii State Seal

State close to
re-signing firm that
provided ’98’s
voting machines

The state considers an eight-year
deal despite problems
in the 1998 vote

By Richard Borreca


The state is close to signing an eight-year contract with Elections Systems & Software to count the ballots in the next four elections.

According to the tentative agreement, the private firm will own, maintain and store the electronic voting machines. The state and ES&S have been negotiating a new contract since February, when the two other major potential bidders dropped out of the competition.

Dwayne Yoshina, chief election officer, declined to discuss the contract details, saying only that "we are working out a contract and the various small details."

Linda Lingle, Republican Party chairwoman, is criticizing the state for not yet signing a contract with a company to count ballots in the Sept. 23 primary and Nov. 7 general elections. Lingle, a former mayor of Maui who ran unsuccessfully against Gov. Ben Cayetano two years ago, has been a critic of the state elections office and how it is run.

Lingle said few people are voting in local elections and she speculates that one of the reasons could be they don't feel confident in the election system. "I have a strong feeling that the office is not functioning in a professional manner," she said. "The fact that we are in June and still don't have a system is unbelievable."

Elections Systems & Software, was picked by Yoshina to run the last election, in 1998.

At that time the state recounted the more than 412,000 ballots after complaints about malfunctioning machines and poorly prepared poll workers.

The firm paid $250,000 to settle contract disputes and $280,000 to audit the vote returns. The recount verified the outcome of all state and local elections.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela, the national elections were suspended because of what officials called widespread technical problems with the voting equipment, supplied by Elections Systems & Software.

Mike Limas, a senior vice president at ES&S, said his company has been helping with elections in Venezuela since 1988. He denied that ES&S is at fault. The problem, he said, is that a new national elections council in the South American country was not ready to hold the election. "They were making changes up to the last day; it was impossible to print ballots or test the machines."

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