Saturday, March 13, 2004

Electronic voting component wasn't fully tested

By Helen Gao, San Diego Union-Tribune, 03/13/04

This article discusses how the smart card encoder used by San Diego and Alameda counties on March 2 was not fully tested by either the state or federal government. County officials seem to want to lay the blame for the widespread smart card encoder failure, which kept 36 percent of the county's 1,611 precincts from opening on time, on the Secretary of State. However, county election officials knew full well going into the March primary that their voting machine, the Diebold Accuvote TSx, was only conditionally certified by the state and not federally approved.


Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said the county relied on the state certification and did not know about the state consultant's letter.

"If we were in the secretary of state's position and had that information, I am not sure if this county would have made the same decision" to certify the device for use, she said.

"The secretary of state did the certification. Based on that, we are forced to trust his judgment."

The state did not do more testing because of the "urgent March deadline," said consultant Steven V. Freeman in his letter to the state's director of voting systems.

The testing focused only on whether the device could encode voter cards properly according to precinct and political party.

Freeman did not raise concerns about the battery in his letter, but he did point out that the device had not been fully tested according to the Federal Election Commission's Federal Voting Systems Standards.

The standards, which California adopted, contain technical specifications to ensure electronic voting systems are "accurate, reliable and secure."

Full testing would have required checking the performance of the equipment under normal and abnormal conditions. In addition, it would have required a series of evaluations of the software and hardware to ensure the equipment holds up during storage, operation and transportation.

Doug Stone, spokesman for Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, blamed Diebold for submitting the equipment late for testing. He said it wasn't until January that Diebold made the equipment available.

"From our standpoint, Diebold dragged its feet in this process and frankly, it was quite frustrating," Stone said.

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