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Chatham Voters Legal Defense Fund accepting donations

By John Bonitz
Posted Thursday, March 2, 2006

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Dear Chatham Citizens,

I am asking you to pledge funds for a Chatham Voters Legal Defense Fund. We believe that laws were broken in the process of selecting new voting machines, and we are planning legal action.

I do not ask this lightly: Many of us on this impromptu committee have volunteered hundreds of hours in the past year. We consider legal action only as a last resort.

No money will be collected unless we are certain we need it. However, with things moving as quickly as they are, we need to be prepared. To start things off, I will personally pledge $100 towards getting voting machines I can trust. We have already received pledges totaling $1000. We need $4000 more to retain our attorney.

Anyone who is moved to help, please send me a private email containing
+ your full name,
+ your mailing address,
+ your phone numbers,
+ the amount of your pledge.

If your pledge is called, it will NOT be tax deductable. But you can rest assured that it will be carefully spent.

Why are we taking this action?

You may have heard that our Chatham Board of Elections ignored government studies, citizen input, and financial analyses in their effort to purchase computerized voting equipment. These computerized voting machines are less reliable, more expensive, and have proven untrustworthy. These are the same sorts of machines that irretrievably lost 4,500 ballots in Carteret County in 2004.

On January 17th, our County Commissioners approved a "compromise" purchase of both computerized machines and optical scanners for paper ballots. This snap decision on new voting equipment was made under the pressure and pretense of a false deadline. Fortunately, the real deadline doesn't arrive until this fall.

But as it stands today, plans are in place for purchase of two different voting systems. Purchase of two systems will cost Chatham
taxpayers more money, both in the short term and over the long run. Poll workers would be forced to deal simultaneously with two different systems. Voters will be confused and turnout will suffer. Handicapped voters will be forced to use the awkward and slow touch-screen computerized voting equipment. (The Raleigh based Alliance of Disability Advocates helped defeat computerized voting machines in Wake County. The past NC President of the National Federation of the Blind favors paper ballots, counted by optical scanners, marked with the help of the "Automark" accessory for handicapped access.)

Hundreds of thousands of federal dollars will pay most of the bill -- unless, as many of us suspect, the computerized touch-screen equipment is decertified in the next few years because of internal flaws. Congress is now considering legislation that would make these untrustworthy machines obsolete. Money to replace the touch screen equipment would come from our county budget.

Public outcry has been resounding. At the public forum on voting machines, people voted nearly 4 to 1 in opposition to computerized voting machines. One Commissioner reported receiving thousands of emails on this subject. Our county Democratic Party Executive Committee has long advocated for the position most Chatham voters take: We want the reliability of the paper and optical scan system that has served us reliably for nearly 20 years. Our committee is hopeful that the Chatham Board of Commissioners and Board of Elections will revisit the decision before court action is required, but we will pursue a legal remedy if we must.

If you agree about the importance of a simple, reliable, affordable, handicapped-accessible system, please help us broaden this campaign for a more sensible outcome for Chatham County!

Whatever your political affiliation, please consider supporting this effort! Secure elections are not a partisan issue. Financial
responsibilty is something all taxpayers can agree upon. Honest and error-free elections are a basic minimum we must maintain. And whatever we do, along with voting integrity, handicapped access must not suffer.


John Bonitz
On behalf of the Chatham County Ad Hoc Committee on Election Integrity

Membership of the Ad Hoc Committee:
Bonnie Bechard, President of Chatham County Democratic Women's Club; J. Kenneth Boggs, John Bonitz, Cherie Ernest, Sally Kost, Karl Kachergis, Secretary, Chatham County Democratic Party; Gretchen Lothrop, Mary Lucas, Jerry Markatos, Resolutions Chair for Chatham County Democratic Party; Nick Meyer, Maura O'Donoghue, Jack Parry.

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Chatham Voters Legal Defense Fund accepting donations