Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Official says state was forced to certify voting machines

By Gig Conaughton, North County Times, 03/17/04

Yesterday San Diego County's Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on the widespread March 2 voting problems. The supervisors heard testimony from dozens of citizens, both critical and supportive of the county's new paperless, electronic Diebold voting system. Assistant Secretary of State Marc Carrel and Diebold Election Systems' CEO Bob Urosevich.


A state elections official said Tuesday that California's secretary of state was forced by insubordinate counties ---- including San Diego County ---- into blessing the electronic voting equipment that caused polls to open late and voters to be turned away March 2.

Assistant Secretary of State Marc Carrel told county supervisors the state initially refused to certify programming machines used in San Diego County's first electronic election March 2, but relented and gave its blessing when San Diego County Registrar Sally McPherson said she would use them "with or without certification." Counties cannot legally use voting systems until they are certified by the state.

Carrel's allegation prompted county Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob to accuse the secretary of state's office of "buck-passing." County managers, meanwhile, denied Carrel's accusation.

"I want to make it very clear," county Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard said. "These systems were certified by the secretary of state in this election. We could not have used them if they were not certified."


Carrel said Diebold continually dragged its feet when told it needed federal testing done on the smart-card programming machines. He said state officials finally told Diebold on Feb. 13 that they would not certify the machines. Diebold Chief Executive Officer Bob Urosevich said the company made its equipment available for testing as soon as it was told it was needed, but left quickly after the meeting and dodged further questions.

Carrel said the state quickly tested and conditionally blessed the machines when San Diego and other counties that were also switching to Diebold electronic voting systems threatened to use the machines anyway when told they would not be certified.

"We got 'the sky is falling' from several counties," Carrel said after the meeting.

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