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Logan's real run begins

July 8, 2008 |  6:00 am

Logan_4 Q: Who is the most controversial elections official in the Western United States?

A: Dean C. Logan.

Q: What is the largest elections jurisdiction in the United States?

A: Los Angeles County.

Q: Who is Los Angeles County hiring Tuesday as its permanent elections director?

A: Dean C. Logan.

The Board of Supervisors has been discussing the position in closed session for several weeks, but made clear on the agenda it has posted for its Tuesday, July 8 meeting that it has decided to keep Logan, the interim registrar-recorder/county clerk since the end of last year, and make his appointment permanent. But at-will.

Salary is $195,000 [pdf].

Logan was vilified in 2004 by Washington state Republicans, who accused him of stealing the election of Dino Rossi as governor and handing it to Democrat Christine Gregoire. He was the director of elections for King County, which includes Seattle.

That experience did not save Logan from being vilified by Democrats for his choice of voting software and equipment.

This year, he was vilified by voter advocates after the Feb. 5 presidential primary, in which the ballots of several thousand independent (“decline-to-state”) Los Angeles County voters initially went uncounted in the notorious “double bubble” mess. A majority of those ballots ultimately were counted, and Logan won grudging praise from some of his detractors.

Logan’s name was not mentioned in open session at last week’s board meeting, but Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky went to unusual lengths to prepare critics for the appointment, praising election watchdogs, especially those from his liberal Westside/Valley district, for their vigilance. He also made a point to get on the record that the search firm hired by the county wasn’t really a shill for some voting equipment company. Like Diebold. But there was more.

“Were the candidates vetted for their criminal records?” he asked. Just in case anyone was wondering. And yes, they were. Civil cases? Judgments filed against them? Bankruptcies? Yes, the personnel team responded, they checked into all that.

Yaroslavsky also asked that the contract for Lo—I mean, for whoever they hire as recorder-registrar/clerk include language forbidding the use of his or her image on any vendor’s promotional material. That’s kind of a no-brainer – except that a picture of and quote from the last registrar, Conny McCormack, ended up on a Diebold brochure.

There also was mention of “desirable” qualifications, including a college degree. That’s something Logan reportedly does not have.

The relationship between McCormack and California Secretary of State Debra Bowen was strained, in part over different levels of confidence in the county’s voting equipment. In her “top-to-bottom review” of equipment throughout California, Bowen decertified Los Angeles County’s touch-screen equipment, which was used for early voting and was in line for eventual use in election-day balloting as well.

On Feb. 5 the county used the double-bubble stamp cards, together with the InkaVote scanner system that alerts voters if they improperly voted twice in the same race or did anything else that would invalidate the ballot. The actual ballots were updated for the June 3 election. InkaVote equipment has been recertified for the limited purpose of scanning ballots at the polling place. It is in line to be used in the Nov. 4 presidential election as well.

To count ballots, the county has scrapped plans to use Diebold GEMS 2 equipment, since it failed to win certification because of security concerns. In its place, the registrar is using a proprietary “legacy” system – in other words something that is rapidly aging – known as MTS. It has been certified, with conditions.

Logan said his department plans to use MTS through the 2010 statewide election and, in the meantime, go through a strategic planning process to figure out how to eventually replace it.

The city of Los Angeles is also without a permanent elections official. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed Karen Kalfayan as interim city clerk in March on the retirement of Frank Martinez. His action is required to make Kalfayan permanent, or to pick a replacement, subject to approval of the City Council

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