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Monday, 06 August 2007 03:17

Voting Machine Restrictions Causing Concerns For Feb. Elections

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slide34 Election officials across the state are expressing concern after a directive from the California Secretary of State’s office was issued Friday night. The directive from Secretary of State Debra Bowen now requires increased security on electronic voting systems. Election officials are warning that this could cost counties millions of dollars, lead to long lines at the polls and delay California's results in next year's presidential primary.

The directive states that some voting systems made by companies that supply all but a handful of California's 58 counties will no longer allowed to be used. Bowen decertified the machines for use but said they could regain certification if the companies could prove they had improved security features. In many counties, that means voters may have to be given paper ballots for the Feb. 5 presidential primary, like those absentee voters already use. The decision followed an eight-week security review of California's voting systems that revealed flaws in some electronic machines. University of California computer experts found that voting machines sold by three companies - Diebold Election Systems, Hart InterCivic and Sequoia Voting Systems - were vulnerable to hackers and that voting results could be altered. Bowen decertified machines made by Diebold and Sequoia but said they could regain certification if they meet several new conditions. She also added security restrictions on machines made by Hart InterCivic. The companies make a variety of machines, each of which will be subject to a different recertification process under the complex set of rules Bowen issued Friday. Machines made by a fourth company, Elections Systems & Software, also were decertified because the company was late in providing information the secretary of state needed for its so-called top-to-bottom review.

Bowen said she is examining that company separately, a process that could have wide-ranging implications on Election Day. Elections Systems & Software supplies the voting equipment for Los Angeles County, the state's most populous. Bowen withdrew certification for the county's InkaVote system while she does her own review. In her announcement late Friday, she said voting machines that failed security checks had not been properly reviewed or tested by the federal government. "I think voters and counties are the victims of a federal certification process that hasn't done an adequate job of ensuring that the systems made available to them are secure, accurate, reliable and accessible," Bowen told reporters during a news conference that started shortly before midnight Friday. Amador County has 80 of the AutoMark voting machines which are mainly used to assist the disabled in the voting process. The Automark machines only mark the ballots in the way that the voter desires through the usage of headphones or other technology as required by the individual voter’s disability.

slide39 The machines do not appear on the list issued by the Secretary of State’s office. Many registrars have been angered by what they described as a unilateral review process that failed to take into account their rigorous training and security procedures. Companies complained that the review was performed under conditions that don't exist in the real world, with the university hackers having full access to machines' manuals and complex computer codes. In a statement issued Saturday, Sequoia said the security of electronic voting systems had never been successfully breached during an election. Counties throughout California rushed to buy electronic voting machines to comply with the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The law was passed to address some of the voting problems that arose during the 2000 presidential contest, such as Florida's infamous hanging chads.

Read 23193 times Last modified on Friday, 28 August 2009 02:05