Tech & society

CA takes middle road

Rather than recommend a wholesale ban of touchscreen voting machines in November, a California panel has proposed a freeze on new equipment unless it produces a voter-verified paper audit trail, accelerating the due date for this technology from 2006 to 2004.

At least 20 states have introduced legislation requiring a paper audit trail. Oregon, New Hampshire and Illinois already require this accountability; Missouri and Nevada will require it by 2006. Secretaries of state in Washington and West Virginia are also calling for paper trails.

Panelist John Mott-Smith, California elections division chief, said:

It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. …it confuses me the extent of the reaction against paper. It is now in the public radar, and it is not going off the public radar.

There are two machines currently capable of producing a voter-verified paper audit trail. One such machine, the Avante VoteTrakker, is certified by state and federal officials. The other, made by AccuPoll, has federal certification and is working towards state certification. Both firms are smaller than giant Diebold, which is under investigation in California for its actions prior to the 2 March primary (Super Tuesday).

In addition, the panel will require companies to turn over their source code for expert examination before the November election.

In order to use touchscreens in November, counties must supply enough paper provisional ballots for voters to have a choice. There are also more stringent security measures. These are not new proposals: Secretary of State Kevin Shelley made these requirements for the 2 March primary and half of the counties ignored them.

Diebold controversy expands
State elections officials do not appear receptive to having Diebold propose a new machine for November. This is not surprising since last week, the Voting Systems and Procedures Panel voted unanimously to decertify the Diebold AccuVote-TSx.

Four counties had purchased this model, which was conditionally certified in December specifically so that counties that had already purchased it could use them. [Huh? Counties spent millions of dollars on machines that had not been certified? Voters – cast them out of office next term.]

But the state has now withdrawn certification because of the problems in the March primary and because Ohio-based Diebold misled the state about its federal certification. The Oakland Tribune broke a story about Diebold’s skirting of the law, including using uncertified machines prior to 28 January 2004; they published documents prepared by the company’s law firm, Jones Day.

Jones Day immediately went to court and the judge directed the paper not to make any more papers public but did not require the paper to withdraw the documents it had already placed on its web site.

The legal memos are damning:

Issue: Whether the use of an uncertified voting system is illegal? Short answer: Yes.

Issue: Whether Diebold breached the Agreement if it provided Alameda County with an uncertified voting system? Short answer: Mostly likely . . . If Diebold materially breached the Agreement, Alameda County can terminate the Agreement and sue for damages.

Oakland Tribune (29 Apr); PC World (28 Apr); Wired (28 Apr); Cincinatti Enquirer (27-Apr); CNN (27 Apr); LA Weekly (23-29-Apr); Cal-Tech Voting Project (pdf)

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

One reply on “CA takes middle road”

If Votetrakker is the only “really” voting device that provides a paper trail, why are machines that are sold by Sequioa and other companies allowed just by adding a printer that does not protect the voters right to a secret ballot. Is it because the ex secretary of State went to work for them? Why is ES&S machines allowed to be sold in California , when the man who had the responsibility for their certification in CA again from the ex SOS office. now is their top salesman? SOMETHING STINKS IN THE EX AND NEW SOS OFFICE. MAYBE ITS STATUS QUO WITH THE STAFF?

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