Friday, July 29, 2005

More news on the Secretary of State's rejection of Diebold's touchscreen voting system

There is a great deal of media interest in the news about Secretary of State Bruce McPherson's rejection of Diebold's TSx voting machine. The Associated Press story which was published earlier this afternoon, includes more details about the decision and its impact. Other news stories are being produced by KGO TV, KNTV, KQED, KCBS radio, KGO radio, and Capitol Public Radio. I'll be appearing tomorrow evening on KGO radio's Karel program, from 8-9 p.m. on 810 AM in the San Francisco Bay Area to discuss the decision and the future of California's voting technology.

Excerpts from the AP story, by Jennifer Coleman, are below. (One correction to note -- the TSx machines were used in four counties in the March 2004 election, and have been warehoused since they were decertified in April 2004, not 2003 as reported by AP.)


California election officials have rejected an electronic voting machine by Diebold after tests revealed unacceptable levels of screen freezes and paper jams.

Three counties already have purchased the TSX voting machine, which was found to have a failure rate of 10 percent. Secretary of State Bruce McPherson said that was too high a risk and he notified company officials in a letter sent Wednesday.


The state withdrew certification for some of Diebold's e-voting equipment in April 2004 after then-Secretary of State Kevin Shelley found those systems unreliable because they lacked a paper trail.

The state was testing the touch-screen voting machines before re-certifying the system.

North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems Inc. plans to fix the problems and will reapply for California approval, said company spokesman David Bear.

"As I understand it, there were 10 paper jams," said David Bear, a spokesman for Diebold Election Systems. "If you have a printer, you have the possibility of this, but you certainly want to lessen that possibility."

He noted that Diebold's system was the first to undergo such extensive testing for the paper trail.

San Joaquin, Kern and San Diego counties already have purchased the TSX system, the secretary of state's office said, spending $40 million on 13,000 machines that have been warehoused since 2003. Other counties were poised to buy the machines if they were approved by McPherson.

Kern County spent $4.1 million on the machines, but officials there were hopeful the system would eventually be certified.

"For this November election, we're going to be all paper," said chief deputy registrar Sandy Brockman, but she added that the county had planned only a limited use of the TSX machines in the special election as a test.


"I'm concerned for the counties (that bought these systems), but I'm very heartened that our new secretary of state has drawn a hard line on voter security and didn't allow the machine to be rushed through the testing," said Kim Alexander, president of the Davis-based California Voter Foundation.

Alexander's organization encourages counties to use an optical scan system, in which the voter fills out a paper ballot that is scanned and digitally counted.

"It's a ballot marked by the voter's own hand and can be used to verify the vote if there's a problem," she said. "It's more secure, more transparent and less expensive" than other e-voting systems.

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