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Secretary of State's Diebold investigation continues

January 16, 2004

Hi Folks,

Yesterday the California Secretary of State's Voting Systems and Procedures Panel (VSP) held a meeting in Sacramento. On the agenda was the matter of Diebold's Accuvote TSx touchscreen voting machine, which was conditionally certified by the state on Nov. 10, 2003.

As you will recall from my previous CVF-NEWS, the TSx was certified conditionally rather than fully due to the Secretary of State's investigation into Diebold's installation of uncertified versions of voting software in all 17 counties using Diebold equipment.

There were well over one hundred people in attendance at yesterday's meeting, including dozens of citizens who traveled from all over the state to testify to the panel; with the exception of a few disability advocates, every citizen who spoke to the panel expressed concerns about the use of paperless, touchscreen voting equipment and several urged the panel to decertify Diebold. One voter, from Calaveras County was nearly moved to tears as he implored the panel to protect his right to vote.

Several reporters and TV cameras were in the room too, along with a good number of the state's county registrars. I have been attending VSP meetings regularly for the past two years and never have I seen so many people and so much interest in a meeting as I saw yesterday.

I spoke to the panel as well, urging them to withdraw conditional certification of the TSx, on the grounds that the unit was certified under false premises, since it is not federally approved. A copy of the letter I submitted to the panel is available on CVF's web site at

Unfortunately, the panel did not discuss this problem at all yesterday. What the panel members did say is that the investigation into Diebold's use of uncertified software is still underway and that they need to collect more documentation from the company before they can determine the severity of the situation. They gave Diebold thirty days to provide the additional documentation. They also said that under state law (Election Code section 19222) if a voting system is decertified there is a six month notice requirement, which can be shortened; once certification is withdrawn there is a six month grace period in which the system can still be used.

So, for now Diebold's voting equipment, including the TSx will be allowed to be used in California for the upcoming March 2, 2004 Primary election. I am deeply disappointed by the fact that California voters in four counties will be asked to vote on equipment that is currently not federally approved and for which there is no guarantee it will be by March.

While the VSP did not take any specific action against Diebold yesterday, they expect to finish their audit within thirty days. The panel also discussed the development of standards to facilitate the voter verified paper trail requirement that Secretary of State Kevin Shelley announced in his November 21, 2003 directive. It appears the Secretary of State's office is moving quickly to develop these standards, which is good news; it means that we may see some touchscreen machines with a voter verified paper trail by November 2004. Counties such as Santa Clara and San Bernardino that included clauses in their touchscreen voting contracts that require the vendor to provide a voter verified paper trail for no additional cost if required by the state are the most likely places we would see such improvements this year.

In the meantime, 12 counties representing 40 percent of California's electorate will vote on paperless, computerized voting machines this March; four of these counties, comprising 13 percent of the electorate will use machines that are not federally approved and have only conditional certification. Voters concerned about security issues relating to Diebold, the TSx or any computerized voting machine have the right to request a paper, absentee ballot if they prefer not to vote on such systems. Absentee ballots can be requested February 2-24.

For more coverage, see:

Photo of yesterday's meeting

" San Joaquin voting machines called into question", by David Siders in the Stockton Record

" Touchscreen voting likely for March," by Warren Lutz in the Daily Republic (Solano county)

Statewide map of California voting systems to be used in March

-- Kim Alexander, President
California Voter Foundation, 916-441-2494

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This page was first published on January 16, 2004 | Last updated on January 27, 2006
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