By Ian Hoffman, Alameda Newspaper Group, April 13, 2004
Diebold recently filed a draft report with Alameda County summarizing the problems the county experienced with the company's voting equipment and software during the March Presidential Primary election.
Electronic devices that held the key to digital voting in Alameda County's Super Tuesday primary failed in at least a half-dozen ways, hobbling the $12.7 million voting system at a quarter of polling places.
Poll workers saw unfamiliar Windows screens, frozen screens, strange error messages and login boxes -- none of which they'd been trained to expect.
A report released Monday by Diebold Election Systems shows that 186 of 763 devices known as voter-card encoders failed during the primary because of hardware or software problems or both, with only a minority of problems attributable to pollworker training.
Diebold's post-mortem of the March 2 election said it was "disappointed" in the encoder failures and that it values its ties to local elections officials. But the McKinney, Texas-based firm offered no fundamental explanation of how and why the company delivered faulty voting equipment to Alameda and San Diego counties -- its two largest West Coast customers -- on the eve of the 2004 presidential primary.
Alameda County Registrar of Voters Bradley Clark wants full answers to that question, plus Diebold's guaranteed fix for software that erroneously gave optically scanned votes to the wrong candidates, by April 29. Otherwise, Clark says, he will consider firing Diebold.
"I want to see some real frankness and answers to the optical scan problem. That to me is the biggest problem facing us," Clark said.
The faulty voter-card encoders can be fixed or replaced by older, more dependable devices, he said, but faulty vote-tabulating software is a more troubling matter.