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Voting Technology

Memo to the Voting Systems & Procedures Panel

January 14, 2004

TO: California Secretary of State’s Voting Systems & Procedures Panel
Kim Alexander, President, California Voter Foundation
RE: TSx Certification

The California Voter Foundation urges you to withdraw conditional certification of Diebold’s Accuvote-TSx machine because the machine lacks federal approval. Once the TSx has been federally approved, we encourage you to hold a substantive public discussion about the unit itself.

Withdrawal of Conditional Certification

The grounds for this withdrawal are obvious: the TSx lacks federal approval and California voting system procedures require voting equipment to be federally approved.

According to both the Federal Election Commission and Steve Freeman, the state’s technical consultant for voting systems, no final determination of whether the TSx is federally approved has yet been made. When a voting system or component completes federal testing, a federal authority must review those tests and determine whether the system or component has passed or failed. If it passes, a “Qualified Number” is issued and the system or component is deemed “approved” by the federal government.

It is not known why the TSx is taking so long to get through the federal approval process. It may be the case that the TSx is caught “in limbo” as the federal oversight authority is shifting from the National Committee of State Election Directors (NASED) to the new Electoral Assistance Commission. Or it may be that the TSx did not pass the federal tests.

No number has yet been assigned to the TSx, and there is no guarantee that the TSx will be federally approved prior to California’s March 2, 2004 primary election. Given this uncertainty, it would be unwise and possibly illegal for counties to use the TSx. According to California Election Code Section 19200, “The Secretary of State shall not approve any voting system, or part of a voting system, unless it fulfills the requirements of this code and the regulations of the Secretary of State.” The Secretary of State’s Voting System Procedures are used in lieu of regulations. Article 16, 1601 of these procedures states, "FEC Standards are Adopted. The Federal Election Commission standards concerning voting systems and software escrow are hereby included by reference, except where otherwise modified by federal and California laws and regulations".

While it could be argued that the procedures do not have the legal weight of regulations, these procedures are the foundation of election security in California. To ignore the procedures, particularly on a requirement as important as adoption of the federal voting system standards, would invite widespread voter mistrust in the State’s entire election security structure.

That four California counties would still be planning at this late stage to use the TSx machines despite their lack of federal approval is an indication of how important it is that the Secretary of State and the Voting Systems Panel (VSP) intervene and prevent these machines from being deployed in our state. The VSP should not only withdraw conditional certification of the TSx, but also encourage those four counties -- Kern, San Joaquin, Solano and San Diego -- to immediately begin planning to use an alternate system.

All of these counties have or will purchase Diebold optical scan voting systems to serve the needs of their absentee voters. In fact, two counties -- Kern and San Joaquin -- used optical scan voting systems for the October 2003 recall election because the TSx was not qualified for use at that time, either. Solano’s Board of Supervisors this week adopted a plan to use printed, optical scan ballots for polling place voters in March should the TSx’ conditional certification be withdrawn. San Diego poses the biggest challenge, since it is the second largest county in the state. I realize that for San Diego to print more ballots at this point will be challenging, but doing so would be far less dangerous than allowing the county to plan to use a voting machine that is not federally approved, particularly in a statewide, Presidential primary election.

The need for a substantive, public discussion of the TSx

Recent VSP meetings have largely focused on procedural issues relating to Diebold’s installation of uncertified software and firmware in California counties. While this is an extremely important discussion, it is not a substitute for the much-needed, public, substantive discussion about the TSx and the many policy and security issues that have been raised by myself and members of the public. These concerns, while acknowledged, have not yet been addressed or discussed by the VSP. These include:

1) whether it is appropriate for California to certify new voting equipment if it is qualified to the 1990 Federal Voting System Standards rather than the more current 2002 standards (as is the case with the GEMS software version 1.18.18 that accompanies the TSx);

2) whether the TSx is truly a modification of Diebold’s currently certified TS machine or is an entirely new model, and thus should be subject to more rigorous state and federal testing (this would include the “set-up and conduct of at least two mock elections” according to Article 7, 701 of the state’s procedures);

3) whether the TSx will be capable of producing a voter-verified paper audit trail; and on what timeline and for what cost;

4) whether the TSx and its software include improvements that address security risks found in Diebold’s TS and GEMS software identified by the July 2003 Johns Hopkins report and the SAIC report for the State of Maryland, and if not, whether it is appropriate to certify a new voting machine in California that perpetuates and expands known security risks.

This public discussion can and should be facilitated by the availability in hard copy and on your web site of staff reports and documents from federal authorities that explain the testing procedures as well as the version of federal standards to which the TSx and its components were tested. The TSx unit should be on hand for this discussion and publicly demonstrated.

While these issues have been touched upon in recent VSP meetings, they have not yet been fully addressed; to allow the TSx to be used in our state without these issues being fully addressed and without federal approval would be ill-advised.

I appreciate your consideration of these concerns. Please feel free to contact me at or at (916) 441-2494 if you have any questions.


Kim Alexander, President
California Voter Foundation

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This page was first published on January 14, 2004 | Last updated on January 27, 2006
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