County Commissioners debate use of ballot counting security cameras

1 Mar

by Chantelle Roy

A proposed video camera installation for ballot counting was put on hold after a lengthy discussion during Wednesday morning’s Bannock County Commissioners’ meeting.

An issue stemming back to the 2010 elections, the installation of video cameras to record activity of volunteers has been a recent topic of discussion. Many concerned citizens, as well as political groups, have asked for the placement of video cameras where ballots are to be counted in order to avoid future errors.

According to Tori Hall, from the Bannock County elections office, the elections of 2010 have caused an uproar after 25 absentee ballots were mysteriously found after counting was finished. The whole issue stems from human error, according to Hall. She assured the those gathered that several new procedures have been set in place for future elections to prevent any other problems.

“We don’t want to look at the names on the ballots,” said Ralph Lillig, a concerned citizen, citing that voting is the back bone of American society as we know it. Lillig prompted those in attendance of the importance the cameras held. He said he hoped to be able to video record the vault, where the ballots were kept, as well as the opening of the ballots to make sure no ballots were tampered with.

But according to Jay Bingham, Bannock County elections administrator, to film the opening of the ballots would be a blatant violation of privacy. Bingham said that the Secretary of State’s office recommended not placing the cameras where ballots could be viewed because personal information is sometimes revealed. And while it is clear that recording the opening of the ballots is probably not going to happen, the consensus was that something was needed to ensure accuracy in the future.

After the prospect of filming the ballots was taken off the table it was then suggested that any path the ballots were to take should be recorded so that there were no inconsistencies later. “Our nation is at a crossroads,” said Lillig, “people are angry and scared,” and he thinks a little more transparency is needed to put people at ease.

The final decision was to install a video camera facing the vault to track people’s comings and goings and to install a portable video camera in the County Commissioners’ chamber that would be used whenever the ballot counting machines were to be used. The camera in the commissioners’ chambers must be portable because it cannot be used to record any other activities held within the chamber.

A man currently in charge of courthouse security and video recording said the total cost of the installation of both cameras would cost between $800 to $1,000 which will need to be payed for. Lillig said private citizens, as well as several organizations, were “lined up” and have already volunteered to pay for the installation of the cameras but the three commissioners, Howard Manwaring, Karl Anderson and Steve Hadley agreed it would be unethical for the commissioners office not to pay for the cameras themselves.

The discussion was ended with talk of future meetings to discuss the budgeting and placement of the cameras.

Contact Chantelle at TheBannockAlternative@gmail.com.

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