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Santa Clarita examining extra ballot security

Officials say stringent system is already in place

Posted: November 14, 2013 6:22 p.m.
Updated: November 14, 2013 6:22 p.m.

City employee volunteers prepare ballots for the official count at City Council Chambers during the April 2012 election. Signal file photo

A Santa Clarita City Council member touched off a tiff this week with a suggestion that some citizens are concerned about the security of ballots cast in city elections and that the city should beef up its security for those ballots as a result.

“There was a lot of concern, and still is concern from the citizenry about ballot security,” Councilman TimBen Boydston said at Tuesday night’s council meeting, asking whether the other council members may be amenable to added security measures such as a camera to record the area where ballots are kept.

City Councilwoman Marsha McLean responded that she would “hate to think that anyone is alluding to anything other than they (the ballots) have been properly counted in the past.”

“I just don’t get why you’re so concerned about some kind of a conspiracy or a problem,” she told Boydston.

The city runs its own elections for City Council; other elections conducted in the Santa Clarita Valley — except for town councils — are run by the county.

Security for the city election process was beefed up in April 2012. The next election is April 8, 2014.

In a phone interview Thursday, Boydston said he was not alleging any election misconduct, though he said he has heard muttering from the citizenry that ballots might have been tampered with in close elections.

“When you can do something that they do in several places to create more security for a fairly low price, then I think you should do that,” he said. “It just gives extra assurance.”

Ballots in city elections are put through a number of security measures, according to city officials.
To start, ballots, once cast, are secured in a locked room in City Hall.

Within that room are cabinets containing ballots to be counted, each with two different locks requiring different keys to open, according to Interim City Clerk Armine Chaparyan.

None of those keys is held by the same person, Chaparyan said, and two people are typically in the presence of the ballots.

“We take the security of our ballots very seriously and we go through an extensive process to make sure they are secure,” Chaparyan said Wednesday.

Chaparyan said she had not personally heard any concerns from citizens regarding the security of cast ballots.

City Hall itself also has security measures to discourage those who might tamper with the ballots, according to city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz, including video surveillance on the three entrances into the building.

Ortiz said the only time she can recall citizens questioning the security of ballots in City Hall was ahead of the last City Council election in 2012, when some asked for beefed-up security for absentee ballots.

In response, the city added extra locks to secure the area where ballots are kept, Ortiz said.

City staffers are in the process of scrutinizing the effect and costs of added security and will present their findings at a future council meeting.

During the last election, held in April 2012, about 17 percent of the more than 90,000 eligible voters cast ballots.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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