Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Alameda votes to consider alternatives to Diebold; San Joaquin plans to stick with TSx's

Yesterday Alameda County's Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 to approve Interim Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold's plan to move from all-electronic voting to a "blended" system that relies more heavily on paper ballots. Ginnold's plan also would open up the bidding for this blended system to all vendors and not just Diebold.

Meanwhile, in San Joaquin County, Registrar of Voters Deborah Hench told the Tri-Valley Herald that she is planning to stick with Diebold's TSx machines, which at present are sitting in a county warehouse and cannot be used until they are certified and produce a voter-verified paper audit trail. Excerpts from reporter Les Mahler's article are featured below.


San Joaquin County is going to stay with the Diebold Inc. touch-screen voting system and let the company iron out its problems, said the county's registrar of voters, Deborah Hench.

"The state is willing to retest them at any time," she said.

During a test in July, the secretary of state determined there were problems with the Diebold system. Hench said the problems — paper jams and screens freezing up during the voting tests — weren't as bad as reported.

During the July test, about nine of 96 machines had paper jams, and 21 screens froze, she said.

Kim Alexander, president of California Voter Foundation in Davis, said Hench is using the same math that Diebold is using.
"The secretary of state was looking at the performance of all 96 machines," she said. "The truth is that none of them worked flawlessly."


Hench said then that despite minor problems, the Diebold Inc. system worked fine in San Joaquin County.

She said the problem with July's tests was that there were no standards or guidelines for failure for Diebold to use in testing the machines. "The tests show that we would have paper jams," she said. "Is that fair to Diebold?"

She noted that in the July tests all the ballots were accounted for and could be read.

Also, the failure problems didn't surface until the next day when the tapes were analyzed, she said. "We found out they failed the next day. The day of the testing, everything went fine," Hench said.

But the problem is that the machines do have a failure rate, said Nghia Nguyen, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's office.

"If you have 96 machines, and over 20 have problems, that's not good enough for California voters," Nguyen said.

Also, Diebold couldn't explain why their machines had problems, she said.

Nguyen said the secretary of state is willing to retest the system and has given that option to Diebold. But the Ohio-based manufacturer of banking ATMs hasn't responded yet.

"The secretary of state wants to give counties as many choices as possible," Nguyen said.


Supervisor Steve Gutierrez said the board has asked Hench for a report on the status of the Diebold touch-screen system.

"We want to know are we going to use it or not going to use it?" he asked. While the board wants feedback from Hench, he said it's up to the board to decide on whether San Joaquin County will stay with Diebold.

Mercury News editorial: Paper ballot spot check is key to election integrity

Today's San Jose Mercury News features an editorial urging Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign SB 370/Bowen. It sums up the need for this bill quite well, and is featured below.


A paper trail, both during an election and afterward, is essential to ensure the integrity of electronic voting. A bill requiring the use of paper ballots during a post-election recount is heading toward the governor's desk. Despite the opposition of Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should sign it.

For four decades, state law has required that poll officials after an election do a random manual recount of 1 percent of ballots cast, as a check against election malfunction and fraud. SB 370, sponsored by Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, would require that the sample recounts for electronic voting be done using the paper printouts that voters now use to verify their ballots.

California is one of two dozen states that mandate a voter-verified paper trail for touch-screen machines. A dozen of those now use the paper printouts in a sample recount.

That should seem obvious, but not to most county registrars of voters and McPherson. They want to take the easier and quicker route of printing out electronic images of votes that the touch-screen software can create internally but that voters don't see.

The difference may seem an arcane point, but it's fundamental. If there is a glitch with the software, you won't know it by simply using images that mask the problem. Only the paper copies that voters verified when they voted can offer an accurate check.

The registrars protest that counting the paper slips would be cumbersome and might interfere with the requirement to do a recount within 28 days of an election -- a weak excuse. Some have continued to insist that a paper trail is unnecessary. But there have been enough breakdowns and bugs in touch-screen machines to warrant skepticism and justify the extra check that SB 370 would provide.

McPherson has another objection: The voter-verified paper slips don't conform in size, print clarity and paper weight to a legal ballot. That is true but shouldn't preclude their use. Regulations should be changed to incorporate the voter-verified receipts, and voting machine companies should be encouraged to produce a paper trail from larger, sturdier stock.

California took the lead in demanding accurate electronic voting. SB 370 is key to election accountability.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Alameda County Board of Supervisors will vote today on voting technology plans

Today the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will meet and vote on whether to endorse the Registrar of Voter's plan to move from an all-electronic voting system to a "blended" system, relying more heavily on paper ballots in the polls. The county is also going to decide whether to open the bidding for a new system to all vendors. The new plan represents a significant shift in Alameda County -- just two months ago the supervisors voted to stick with Diebold and an all-electronic voting system. The supervisors' meeting starts at 10 a.m. and this issue is item 15 on the agenda. A live audio webcast of the meeting is available online.

These developments in Alameda are welcome news. Back in June, when I addressed the Board of Supervisors I made several recommendations, including that they go with a blended system and open up their equipment procurement process to other vendors. I left that June board meeting deeply disappointed by the course of action the county chose to take. Hopefully today the board will vote to change their course and move toward greater reliance on paper voting systems, which are more transparent, affordable and secure than electronic voting machines.

SB 370 heads to the Governor's desk

Today's Oakland Tribune features a story by Ian Hoffman on yesterday's unanimous vote in the State Senate to pass SB 370, authored by State Senator Debra Bowen, who also issued a news release about the passage of her bill. Excerpts from the Oakland Tribune article are below.


California is on the verge of turning away from electrons and toward paper as the ultimate arbiter of democratic choice, with final passage Monday of a bill requiring the use of paper trails for recounting votes.

California already was among 26 states requiring electronic voting machines to produce a backup paper record for voters to see and confirm their electronic votes.

If the governor signs the bill, the state will join a dozen of those states where elections officials also plan to use those printouts for any automatic recount or an election challenge. California is close on the heels of New York, West Virginia and other states that passed similar laws within the last two months, according to researchers at, a nonpartisan clearinghouse for voting-reform information.State senators sent the bill to the governor on a lopsided 36-0 vote after scarcely any debate.

Computer scientists conceived of the paper trail as a partial safeguard against fraud and error in computerized voting.

"No voting machine is going to be 100 percent error-free, 100 percent of the time," said Debra Bowen, D-Marina Del Rey, the bill's author. "But unlike with paper, when it comes to electronic data, a small human error, a technology glitch or a tampering incident can change thousands of votes in an instant."

Her legislation would treat electronic ballots as the legal record of the vote but rely on the paper trail for California's mandatory hand count of ballots in 1 percent of precincts.

"People need and deserve to know their votes have been counted accurately, and the best way to ensure that is to make sure there's a paper printout of every electronic ballot," she said.

So far, the paper trails produced by suppliers of computerized touch-screen voting machines have been double rolls of curly, thermal paper that tend to jam on some machines.

"Boy, it's pretty clunky. And it didn't have to be this clunky," said David Wagner, an assistant professor of computer science and a voting-security scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. "The vendors could have built machines with a paper trail that was more convenient for elections officials and voters, but it didn't happen."

Local elections officials who embraced electronic voting as a way to rid themselves of paper fought the paper trail and fought its use in recounts. California's chief elections officer, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, has opposed Bowen's bill because he says the paper rolls don't look anything like a ballot and shouldn't be treated like one.

But if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs the bill — aides said he has made no decision — voters in counties using touch-screens could be seeing paper trails for a long time, and those little slips could become ensconced in state election law as a decider of elections.


If a new technology for verifying votes did come along, experts on voting and elections say they doubt elections officials will have the money or desire to buy it for several years at least.

"You just see counties wanting to slide through this and get it done," said Sean Greene,'s research director.

After the 2006 elections, he and Wagner said, voting technology is likely to settle down.

"Elections officials are not going to have the appetite to change their systems for some time," Wagner said.

Monday, August 29, 2005

SB 370 passes the Senate on a unanimous vote

A few moments ago the California State Senate took up and passed SB 370 by Senator Debra Bowen, which requires that voter verified paper audit trails be used to verify the accuracy of computerized software vote counts. Bowen's bill passed unanimously in the Senate today, and also enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the Assembly, where it passed last Thursday, with nearly half of the Assembly Republican Caucus voting in favor.

This strong, bipartisan support for SB 370 will be important as the Governor considers whether to sign this bill. Secretary of State Bruce McPherson's opposition was a setback, but evidently it did not persuade a single member of the Senate to vote against SB 370 before sending the bill to the Governor.

Now the focus will turn to Governor Schwarzenegger, who has until October 9 to sign or veto SB 370. Those who wish to contact the Governor on this bill can send an electronic message using the online form at or by phone, fax, or U.S. mail.

U.S. Mail:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: 916-445-2841

Fax: 916-445-4633

Orange County registrar placed on leave

Last week Orange County officials placed the county's Registrar of Voters, Steve Rodermund, on administrative leave. The Los Angeles Times' story reports that it's a "personnel matter", according to County Executive Officer Thomas G. Mauk. Rodermund has been criticized recently for scheduling a special congressional election to be held on Rosh Hashanah, one of the most important holidays in the Jewish faith. However, according to the article that appeared in the Orange County Register, this was not the reason why Rodermund was placed on leave.

County officials are keeping mum as to why Rodermund has been removed from his office. As registrar, Rodermund has been responsible for steering the county's purchase of an electronic voting system from Hart, a vendor located in Texas that teamed up with the public relations firm Maximus to win the county's $26 million contract in April 2003. In the March 2004 Primary election, Orange was one of three counties in the state that experienced serious, widespread technical problems with their electronic voting systems, which led the State Legislature to hold a hearing to examine what went wrong and ultimately helped win passage of SB 1438 which mandates a voter verified paper trail for electronic ballots. Orange County is currently the only Hart client in California, and the amount of money the county may have to spend to make its Hart eSlate voting machines comply with California's new voter verified paper audit trail law could be as high as $9 million.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Deputy Registrar Neal Kelley will be running the elections department during Rodermund's absence. Rodermund did not return calls from either the LA Times or Orange County Register seeking comment.

Excerpts from the Orange County Register article are below.


The void comes at a busy time for registrar officials planning the myriad details for two special elections in the next two months.

On Oct. 4, more than 400,000 voters will cast ballots to fill a vacancy in the 48th Congressional District. And on Nov. 8 voters will go to the polls in a special election called by the governor.

Another election could be held in early December if no candidate vying for the 48th Congressional District seat wins a majority. A win by state Sen. John Campbell in that election could trigger as many as four more elections with state assembly members moving up to run for Campbell's Senate seat.


With so many issues to deal with, it's uncertain what prompted the action to remove Rodermund, 54, a former budget analyst and military veteran who headed the department as an interim chief for a year before being appointed in December 2003.

"I see it as a CEO tackling some issues head on and providing the adequate time to hear all sides. It doesn't necessarily mean there's any impropriety," said Supervisor Chris Norby.

The only comment made by the county spokeswoman was to a question never asked.

"It has nothing to do with the conflict of the election day with Rosh Hashanah," said Thomas Plunk.


Excerpts from the LA Times story are below.


His record has been marked by some controversies, most notably the March 2004 election when poll workers struggling with new voting machines gave thousands of voters incorrect access codes, causing the wrong ballots to appear on voting machines.

And in November 2004, the official results of a dozen Orange County elections were delayed more than a week because of slow counting of absentee ballots.

Assemblyman Todd Spitzer (R-Orange), who was a county supervisor when Rodermund was assigned to the office, was concerned about the timing of Rodermund's leave.

"The registrar's office has obviously been plagued by systemic problems over the years," Spitzer said, "and it seems that in every election, some fundamental issue has arisen."

Spitzer said he worried that the turmoil in the registrar's office might affect the Nov. 8 election. Among the several ballot measures to be decided is one that would allow county firefighters to share in millions of dollars in public safety funds from Proposition 172.

"The special election is very critical," Spitzer said. "If the registrar's office is not completely squared away, it could open up special challenges in the court."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Assembly passes SB 370; Alameda plans to go with "blended" system

This morning the Assembly passed SB 370/Bowen. The initial vote was 46-19 though the final total may change before the day is over, as Assembly Members may add on votes before today's session adjourns. Though the vote was not unanimous, it also was not partisan; insiders in the Capitol inform me that the Assembly Republican Caucus took a "support" position on this bill (caucus analyses are not available to the public).

Meanwhile, Alameda County is making plans to issue a "Request for Information" from voting equipment vendors. Alameda's course of action has changed dramatically since June, when the board had approved a plan to spend $6 million to upgrade their Diebold electronic voting machines and stick with all-electronic balloting. Now the county is planning to go instead with a "blended" system, mixing paper ballots and electronic ballots in their polling places. The county is also allowing other vendors to compete for the new contract. More details about these developments are featured in Ian Hoffman's article in today's Oakland Tribune. Excerpts are below.


Alameda County — the first large West Coast county to gamble on Diebold Election Systems Inc. and its electronic voting machines — is weighing whether to end that experiment, going with a more paper-based voting system and perhaps another supplier.

County officials are contacting voting-system vendors this week and asking whether they can provide a so-called "blended" voting system, with a winning bidder to be chosen in November.

Alameda is headed the way of many large counties — toward a hybrid of optical scanners for paper ballots and either electronic touchscreens or computerized ballot-marking devices for handicapped voters.

If vendors can supply such a system, this November's special election will be the county's last with Diebold touchscreens as the only voting equipment in the polling place.

Diebold remains the nation's largest voting system supplier and is selling thousands of its touchscreens in Mississippi, Utah and Ohio. And the firm still may try selling Alameda County on a new system.

But the county's move away from touchscreens and toward other vendors is a blow to Diebold after a two-year string of missteps and mistakes by the firm.

County elections officials stoutly defended the company in 2003 when Diebold computers awarded thousands of votes to the wrong candidates, and in 2004 when Diebold exerted last-minute pressure on the state to approve voting equipment only to have it break down in a quarter of Alameda County polling places.

In June, county supervisors signaled a willingness to increase their original $12 million investment in Diebold equipment by approving negotiations for purchase of newer touchscreens for an additional $6 million.

But the last straw came in July, when state tests of 96 of those new touchscreens revealed paper jams, system crashes and screen freezes in 28 percent of the machines. Secretary of State Bruce McPherson rejected the machine for use in California.

Since then, sales reps from other vendors have come knocking at the door of acting county elections chief Elaine Ginnold. She and her staff have test-driven several other voting systems. She will ask county supervisors Tuesday for the go-ahead to solicit bids on the new hybrid system in September.

The move to a paper-based voting system makes sense, Ginnold said.

"One reason is the cost of electronic machines is quite high, and in the light of changing state and federal regulations we don't see the prudence of spending a lot of money on touchscreens at this time," she said.

An equal reason comes from the county's voters. Almost 40 percent are voting on paper absentee ballots, and this proportion of mail-in voting is rising with every general election.

SB 370/Bowen likely to be taken up on Assembly Floor today

Lots of people are following SB 370, a bill by Senator Debra Bowen to require that voter-verified paper audit trails are used in California to verify the accuracy of software vote counts. The bill is likely to be taken up on the Assembly floor today. Assemblyman Tom Umberg, chair of the Assembly Elections Committee, is the member who will be taking it up. If it passes out of the Assembly, the bill heads back to the Senate for a final floor vote. Once it passes the Senate it goes to the Governor for his signature or veto. You can watch legislative proceedings via the California Channel's webcast online.

There have been no "no" votes cast on SB 370, but Secretary of State Bruce McPherson did recently come out opposing it, which was very disappointing. Hopefully the Governor will sign the bill anyway. There were several reasons the Secretary of State decided to oppose the bill -- one reason was that county election officials said it would take too much time to perform this verification process. But without this step in the election process it is impossible to give the public any reasonable assurance that computerized election results are accurate. This verification process has served California voters well for forty years using paper-voting systems but has been undermined over the past five years with the use of paperless electronic voting machines.

Why are some election officials so opposed to public verification of election results? What are they afraid of? I've thought about this a lot over the years working on these issues, and have concluded that what they are afraid of is this: they know that there are going to be problems with their vote counting software, that there will be glitches and snafus. There have always been problems with vote counting software, just as there have always been problems with any kind of software we use. I think some election officials would prefer to quietly solve these problems in the back room rather than have to account for them in public. But elections aren't for election officials. They are for the public, and the public deserves and demands a reasonable degree of confidence in the accuracy of our election results.

The Legislature responded to this need last year when it unanimously enacted and Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 1438, to require that electronic voting machines produce a voter-verified paper audit trail. Now the Legislature needs to act again to ensure that paper trail is used by county election officials to verify the accuracy of software vote counts. Several other legislatures across the county have already passed laws this year mandating paper trails and their use to routinely verify software vote counts. Check out Verified Voting's new summary for details. Not only have other states passed this law, but the percentage of ballots counted in other states' verification process is higher than California's.

San Diego recount shows computer-counted results were accurate

A group of voters in San Diego held a "parallel" election during the recent Mayoral election. They asked voters to cast a second ballot that they could count and use to verify the results. About 50 percent of the voters in 11 precincts participated. San Diego County currently uses Diebold's paper-based voting system, using optical scan technology to read the paper ballots, which are then tabulated using Diebold's GEMS software. San Diego is one of three California counties that purchased Diebold's electronic "TSx" machines which are still uncertified by the state and sitting in warehouses. San Diego has been using Diebold's paper voting system in the meantime.

When the parallel election votes were counted, there was a small percentage of difference between those results and the official results. The group requested a recount, and County Registrar Mikel Haas conducted one. The results are out, and show that the hand counted totals were "nearly identical" to the software counted totals, according to this article by Daniel J. Chacon in today's San Diego Union-Tribune.

Had the mayoral election been conducted on paperless, electronic voting machines a public recount could not have been conducted and the registrar would have been unable to verify to the public that the software-counted results were accurate. There are some voting rights activists who say we shouldn't use computers in the voting or vote counting process at all. But it is my view, and one that is widely shared among those working for transparancy and accountability in the voting process, that computers and software can be used safely if the voting system utilizes paper ballots, like San Diego's, or includes a voter verified paper trail, and if some percentage of those paper records are randomly selected and routinely used to verify the accuracy of the overall software vote count.

Excerpts from the Union-Tribune article are below.


A partial recount yesterday to test the accuracy of scanners that read ballots and tallied votes in the San Diego mayor's race July 26 revealed results that were nearly identical to those of the machines.

An election worker logged votes during yesterday's recount of about 30 precincts in the San Diego mayoral race.

For example, a discrepancy of perhaps one vote occurred in a few precincts.

"This is what you would expect in a properly conducted election," San Diego County Registrar of Voters Mikel Haas said. "I think the people of San Diego can take comfort, if they had doubts at all, about the conduct of the election."

Members of the group that asked and paid for the recount of about 30 of the city's 713 precincts said they still had doubts about a voting system that relies on computers.

Jerry Ewig of Democracy for America said the only voting system he deems reliable is one that uses paper ballots counted by hand.

"No machines," he said.


The recount was initiated by the group Citizens Audit Parallel Election, which staked out 11 precincts and asked people exiting the polls how they voted. The group said its tally differed from the official count by up to 4 percent.

The group asked for a recount on behalf of Councilwoman Donna Frye, who finished first and agreed to lend her name to the cause, said Hal Simon, her campaign office manager.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm confident in this election system because it works," said Simon, who has observed two mayoral race recounts since November. "This proves that if they (voters) do make the effort and go out and vote, their vote will count."

Monday, August 22, 2005

Diebold hires former Democratic Party chairman for PR campaign

Saturday's Oakland Tribune featured an article by Ian Hoffman about Diebold's new public relations effort, being headed up by Joe Andrew, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. His article is featured below.


With a phone call and a retainer, Diebold CEO Walden O'Dell has launched former Democratic National Committee chairman Joe Andrew on a 50-state ambassadorship for electronic voting.
O'Dell said he ``wanted to reframe some of the issues,'' Andrew said.

His first stop: California, the nation's largest market for voting machines and the place where Diebold's fortunes as the largest supplier of electronic-voting machines in the nation could be made or broken.

``Even if you have tremendous success every place else,'' said Andrew, ``if you can't sell technology in California, you're in trouble.''

The rest of the voting industry is selling technology here. Millions in federal dollars sit ready for counties to put at least one high-tech, handicapped-accessible voting machine in every polling place by January.

But in California, Diebold can't sell its touchscreen voting machine, the AccuVote TSx, nor can counties that bought thousands of the machines in 2003 used them in elections.

More than $30 million worth of TSx machines sit in three counties' warehouses, unapproved for actual voting. More than $15 million worth of earlier-generation Diebold touchscreens in Alameda, Los Angeles and Plumas counties cannot be used after January.

Andrew said computer scientists and e-voting activists are standing in the way of a promising technology, an ATM-like voting computer with such a low error rate that more votes count. And that, said Andrew, should work to the benefit of Democrats.

The tour pairs Andrew with former Republican congressional aide Melissa McKay, now working for the public-relations firm, Ogilvy PR. But California and its Democrats were clearly Andrew's show.

Diebold's new charm offensive for Democrats strikes some as a public-relations gambit, a segue from mishaps and mistakes in its voting business to the uncontroversial notion of making more votes count for the elderly, minorities and disabled voters.

``This is a new tactic, a new solution for a company that, unlike other electronic-voting companies, has a continuing public-relations problem, certainly in California,'' said Dan Seligson, editor of, a nonpartisan clearinghouse for voting-reform information.

``It's not based on nothing,'' Seligson said. ``It's based on the problems they've had.''

In three years in California, Diebold voting devices have awarded thousands of votes to the wrong candidates and broken down in two large counties during a presidential primary. Two successive state election chiefs, a Democrat and a Republican, both have rejected the TSx.

Former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley suggested criminal prosecution, citing misleading statements by Diebold Election Systems executives and ``reprehensible'' tactics. The state joined a false-claims suit against the company and won a $2.5 million settlement.

Last month, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson cited poor performance in state testing, with paper jams and software crashes in 28 percent of machines used in a mock election.

But Andrew isn't traveling the nation to talk about that or even to talk much about Diebold. So why is a ranking Democratic operative who was convinced Republicans ``stole'' the 2000 election working for Diebold and O'Dell, a battlestate fund-raiser for Bush-Cheney 2004?

It is Andrew's message - that paperless electronic voting is good for Democrats - and his connections in Democratic circles.

``Joseph's a smart guy and has a lot of contacts out there,'' said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, a Washington-based consultant on elections.

Andrew is tapping reliable Democratic constituents - civil-rights groups, minority groups such as the NAACP and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials and such disability groups as the Council for the Blind.

They rallied in 2001 under the umbrella of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights to rid the nation of reviled punchcard voting, and Andrew worked pro-bono as their lawyer. He delivered bipartisan support for the Help America Vote Act. Behind the act was the presumption that electronic voting was salvation from the dimpled and hanging chad and from having to resort to the Supreme Court to decide the presidency.

But Congress delayed 16 crucial months in setting up a new federal agency to oversee and enforce standards for the new voting equipment. By 2003, the debate over voting equipment shifted from civil-rights groups and their lawyers to computer scientists who argued that electronic voting was too vulnerable to breakdowns, errors and fraud, at least without any backup paper record of the vote.

So far, they've been winning. Despite resistance from Diebold and some other e-voting suppliers, lawmakers in 25 states have passed laws requiring a paper backup, for review by voters and in most cases recounts by elections officials. Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia are debating such a requirement.

While Ohio, Mississippi and Utah are considering large purchases of touchscreens, sales of paper-based optical scanning machines so far are outpacing sales of electronic-voting machines since the 2004 election.

In California at least, Andrew sees civil-rights leaders abdicating from a worthy cause. ``The great irony is, it's the progressives - my side of the aisle - who are against electronic voting but have the most to benefit from it.''

The odd couple of Diebold and Andrew have ``their work cut out for them,'' said Kim Alexander, president of nonprofit California Voter Foundation.

She acknowledges that electronic voting has plenty going for it, such larger type for elderly voters, ballot displays in multiple languages and an audio ballot for visually impaired voters.

``But the way it's been implemented has been irresponsible and reckless,'' Alexander said. ``What we've seen all across the country are numerous examples of glitches and problems. I wish that Diebold would put it's effort into making better equipment and making its paper trail work, rather than a PR campaign.''

Thursday, August 18, 2005

San Diego group conducts parallel election, requests vote recount

Interesting news from San Diego -- a recount in the city's recent election is taking place after a local group conducted a parallel election and found the official results questionable. An article by Evan McLaughlin, staff writer for Voices of San Diego, is featured below.


A local citizens group claims that the automated voting machines used in San Diego made mistakes that changed the results of the July 26 special election significantly and it is paying the county to do a manual recount of ballots cast in 11 precincts.

"It's about accurately counting the votes," said Brina-Rae Schuchman, one of 23 individuals who want to check the accuracy of the Diebold AccuVote-OS optical scanning machines the county used to tally votes in the citywide special election. "Our jobs as citizens are to get every vote counted in America, and as long as that's not happening, we're losing democracy in America."

The group staged a parallel election at 11 of the city's precincts on Election Day, asking voters to copy their votes onto paper ballots after casting official ballots that were recorded by Diebold scanners.

Organizers took the results to a statistician, who determined that the difference between the tallies by the registrar of voters for the mayoral race and a ballot measure and those recorded in the parallel election were statistically significant, even after accounting for participants who broke a pledge to vote exactly the same on both ballots.

Calls placed to Diebold, Inc.'s headquarters in North Canton, Ohio, were not returned Tuesday.

Initially, the Citizen Audit Parallel Election Project is requesting a manual recount of the 11 precincts, Schuchman said. County officials will begin hand counting the ballots within the next week.

She said they will ask for a hand recount of all precincts if results from the first handful of precincts confirm their suspicions. The citizens group, which has raised money from across the state, will pay for the staff and equipment needed for the recount.

The group was assembled after various media reports nationwide have questioned the integrity of Diebold voting machines.

County Registrar of Voters Mikel Haas said his office tested the machines before the election and he is confident that the results were accurate.

"They're much more eloquent about their concerns than I am," Haas said. "There are safeguards that we work with before every election. That's part of the procedure."

The 11 candidates that ran for mayor and representatives for both sides of the Proposition A initiative, which proposed that the city of San Diego transfer the Mount Soledad Memorial to the federal government, must be given the chance to attend the recounts, Haas said.

The registrar said that optical scan machines will be used in the Nov. 6 statewide election to record both precinct and absentee ballots.

Touch-screen voting will be re-implemented for precinct ballots after machines are upgraded to include a voter-verified paper audit trail to comply with recent changes to the California election code, he said.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Secretary of State opposes legislation to require use of paper trail for election verification

California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson has come out in opposition to Senate Bill 370, which would require county election officials to use the voter verified paper audit trails to audit the accuracy of software vote counts. This is very disappointing news; CVF, along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation had sent a letter to Secretary McPherson urging him to support this bill. Today's Oakland Tribune features an article by Ian Hoffman about the Secretary of State's position. It is featured below.


California's secretary of state, a proponent of backup paper records for electronic-voting machines, is nonetheless opposing their use in vote recounts as legally problematic and impractical, an opinion that could influence national voting reforms.

After months of collecting public opinion, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson recently urged rejection of a new bill that would mandate counting of paper-trail records on e-voting machines.

That, according to voting activists, would render paper trails useless as an independent check on voting computers and software.

"We're at risk of losing the one form of independent verification that we have when counting electronic votes," said Kim Alexander, president of the nonprofit California Voter Foundation. "Unless it's used in a recount, there's no reason for voters to be confident in the accuracy of software vote counts."

Computer scientists latched onto the idea of paper trails after the controversial 2000 elections and a flood of new, computerized touch-screen-voting machines took the place of older punch-card and lever voting.

With a paper trail, the logic went, voters could verify their computerized ballots and elections officials would have a paper record of every vote to count as a check on the computers. More than 20 states now require a paper-trail printer on electronic-voting machines or are debating it.

"It's clear to me that the momentum is behind paper trails," said Dan Seligson, editor of, a nonpartisan clearinghouse for voting reform information.

At issue is a bill authored by Redondo Beach Democrat Debra Bowen, chair of the Senate Committee on Elections and Reapportionment. No lawmaker has voted against the bill in any committee vote or in a full Senate floor vote. It is headed for a full vote in the Assembly.

"To me, it's so obviously the right thing to do to protect the integrity of the vote that it's hard to imagine the governor vetoing it," Bowen said.

"The idea is astonishing that you would go to all the trouble of a paper trail and then use it for nothing," she said.

The problem, as McPherson sees it, is the paper trail itself does not fit the legal definition of a ballot — no thick paper, no watermarks, no rules on size — but using it for recounts would treat it as if it were a ballot.

Beyond that, visually impaired voters cannot see the paper trail, McPherson said Monday. "The disabled groups really can't determine whether the paper trail accurately records their votes."

The state association of local elections officials also opposes the Bowen bill as burdensome.

For 40 years, elections officials have been required to recount 1 percent of the ballots cast in an election, selected at random. With the emergence of touch-screen machines, officials are having the machines print out images of the electronic ballots, and they are recounting those.

University of California, Berkeley, law professor Deirdre Mulligan said it is hardly surprising that paper trails do not meet the legal definition of a ballot. "It's true," said Mulligan, who teaches law at Boalt Hall and directs the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic. "We have these laws that haven't kept pace with technology."

But if the governor agrees with McPherson's opposition based on a "technicality," she said, "you're kind of left with a poor choice. The electronic ballot images that they're talking about counting are less likely to provide a check on the machine."

McPherson proposes pooling federal voting-reform money for several states and devoting it to research on the best way to verify electronic voting.

The paper trail still would have value, he argued, "just to give any voter who might go into the booth a double-check: 'This is how I voted.' It's just to give voters more assurance."

Monday, August 15, 2005

USA Today story on paper trails in the states

Last week USA Today featured an article by Jim Drinkard highlighting the growing trend around the nation to implement a voter verified paper audit trail requirement in the states. As the article notes, already 25 states have enacted laws to require a paper trail. Last week North Carolina's legislature passed a paper trail bill, which if signed into law will bring the total number to 26. The USA Today story also features a helpful map showing the status of paper trail laws and legislation in the 50 states.

Excerpts from the USA Today story are below.


Three years into a national debate over the security and reliability of computerized voting machines, the skeptics are winning.

In the past month, legislatures in five states — Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Oregon — have passed laws requiring computer-based voting machines to produce a paper backup that can be verified by the voter, according to, which monitors voting systems. That brings to 25 the number of states that require a paper trail.

Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia are considering similar legislation.

Paper printouts could be used to verify the electronic count, or as a fail-safe measure in case a recount is needed.

Advocates of requiring a paper trail say it is a response to voters' concerns about whether their ballots are being accurately tallied. Those concerns, they say, stem from the nation's traumatic experience with the disputed 2000 presidential election in Florida and a continuing close split in the nation's politics.

"We're not getting many landslides these days, so it's crucial that the votes be counted accurately," says Will Doherty, director of, which lobbies for paper trails on voting machines.

Some election experts fear that paper backup records will add a layer of complexity to an already delicate system. That could lead to even worse problems in the 2006 elections, such as jammed printers and long voting lines, they say.

"The unintended consequence of a (paper trail) mandate could diminish, rather than enhance, voter confidence," says Conny McCormack, who runs elections in the nation's largest voting jurisdiction, Los Angeles County.

"When we start using paper trails in a live election, all of these problems are going to become apparent," says Linda Lamone, administrator of the Maryland Board of Elections. "Problems with paper ballots are going to cause a whole new cloud over the system."

One example already has cropped up. In a California test July 20 of touch-screen voting machines with add-on printers, nearly 20% of the machines experienced problems, including paper jams and computer crashes. The machines were made by Diebold, a leading manufacturer of touch-screen computer voting equipment.

California has since banned the machines, and the test sent qualms through states such as Mississippi and Utah, which had decided to buy machines like those California rejected.

"That just threw holy hell into everybody's bonnet," says Kimball Brace of Election Data Services, a firm that monitors the kinds of voting systems in use across the nation.

Maryland was among the first states to go to all-electronic voting after the problems of the 2000 election, and its experience has been good, Lamone says. "If the proper security measures and procedures are put into place, it's the best system that there is," she says.


If a close election goes to a recount, disputes could arise over whether the electronic vote or the paper version is the official record. Paper could be lost, and recounts could take weeks, Lamone says.

More and more states are making decisions about voting technology to meet a Jan. 1 deadline in the Help America Vote Act, which provides federal money to replace outmoded voting machines.

Brace notes that whenever localities adopt new voting technology, the first year it is used holds the greatest risk of problems.

"There's still the potential for a train wreck coming next year," he says.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Supreme Court allows redistricting initiative on November ballot

Proposition 77 is back on the ballot due to a California Supreme Court decision this afternoon. Excerpts from the AP story are below.


The California Supreme Court ruled Friday that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt to change the way legislative districts are drawn should be placed back on November's special election ballot.

The 4-2 decision overturns a state appellate court ruling that removed the measure because of a wording dispute.

In its ruling, the San Francisco-based court said it was unconvinced there were different meanings in the versions of the measure that were submitted to the attorney general for review and shown to registered voters for their signature to place it on the ballot.

"We conclude that it would not be appropriate to deny the electorate the opportunity to vote on Proposition 77 at the special election to be held on November 8, 2005, on the basis of such discrepancies," the majority wrote.

The decision is a victory for the Republican governor, who has made the redistricting initiative a centerpiece of his so-called "year of reform."

The initiative seeks to strip lawmakers' power to draw congressional and legislative boundaries in California and instead shift that responsibility to a panel of retired judges.

In a statement, Schwarzenegger said he was "pleased that the people of California will have an opportunity to vote on Proposition 77. ... Close to one million Californians signed petitions demanding redistricting reform, and today their voices have been heard."

Supporters submitted enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot, but Attorney General Bill Lockyer sued to remove it after its backers disclosed that they used a different version of the initiative during the certification process.

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled in Lockyer's favor, striking the measure from the ballot July 21. Earlier this week, the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento rejected, in a 2-1 vote, an attempt by its backers to restore it.

Lockyer said he was disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision and said he had brought the challenge to defend the integrity of the initiative process.

"The outcome in this case presents a serious danger of opening up the initiative process to bait-and-switch tactics that deceive voters and erode their trust," he said in a statement.

Voting to overturn the Sacramento appeals court were Chief Justice Ronald M. George, Justice Marvin Baxter, Justice Ming Chen and Richard Aldrich, a Los Angeles appellate justice sitting on assignment.

Dissenting were justices Carlos Moreno and Joyce Kennard. Justice Kathryn Werdegar was unavailable and did not participate.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

State appeals court keeps redistricting measure off the ballot

Prop 77's proponents lost another court battle in their effort to keep their measure on the November statewide special election ballot. They intend to appeal to the California Supreme Court. Excerpts from Tuesday's AP story are below.


A state appeals court on Tuesday refused to put Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting initiative back on November's special election ballot, saying supporters' use of two versions to qualify the measure was a "clear violation" of the constitution.

"The petitioners could easily have avoided or discovered and corrected the problem of different versions before the circulation of petitions...," the 3rd District Court of Appeal said in a 2-1 decision.

"Their failure to make a public disclosure (before the measure qualified for the ballot) has tainted ... the ballot pamphlet review process," said Justices Coleman Blease and M. Kathleen Butz.

Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland dissented, saying the measure's constitutional issues should be decided after the election.

Schwarzenegger said the ruling "ignored the will of nearly one million Californians who signed petitions demanding redistricting reform. Those voters knew they were signing petitions in support of reform and they deserve to get it," he said in a statement.

Daniel Kolkey, an attorney representing the measure's supporters, said the decision would be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The measure is one of three Schwarzenegger placed on the Nov. 8 ballot and is a cornerstone of his "year of reform" package to remake state government. He also wants a state spending cap and teachers to work longer before being granted tenure.

The redistricting proposal would remove state lawmakers' power to draw boundaries for Congress, the Legislature and the state Board of Equalization, giving that responsibility instead to a panel of retired judges.

It ran into legal problems after supporters said they had inadvertently used two versions of the initiative during the qualification process. The version that was presented on voter petitions was different from the one submitted to the attorney general's office for preparation of a title and summary to go on the petitions and ballot.

The attorney general's office said that violated a clear-cut constitutional requirement that the same version of the initiative sent to the attorney general's office be used on petitions.


Tuesday's ruling said the text circulated by proponents differed in 17 places from that submitted to the attorney general's office.

"This ruling is important for California voters because it protects the integrity of the initiative process," Attorney General Bill Lockyer said in a statement. "I'm gratified the court found that when it comes to complying with constitutional mandates designed to safeguard the integrity of our elections, it's not good enough to be in the ballpark. You have to play by the rules."

Monday, August 8, 2005

California tightens rules for e-voting vendors

Associated Press writer Jennifer Coleman's article last Friday provides more analysis and details about California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson's announcement that he is tightening the rules on voting equipment vendors. Excerpts from the AP story are below.


Makers of electronic voting machines will have to certify that their systems meet federal guidelines to ensure that voters don't get "stuck with a lemon" as technology and regulations evolve, the state's top election official said.

The new rule, announced this week by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, will clarify for counties which systems are approved for use in the June 2006 primary election.

Manufacturers of e-voting machines will have to sign contracts stating that their equipment meets the requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act.

The guidelines for HAVA won't be finalized until October, McPherson said in an interview Friday. The new rule will protect counties financially if they buy a system touted as HAVA-compliant, only to learn it doesn't meet the final regulations.

"We don't know, and California voters don't know, what compliance will mean," he said. "Vendors say that as of this date they are compliant, but there may be changes to that."

The rule change follows McPherson's rejection last week of an application by North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold's e-voting machine. A test by the California secretary of state's office found the machine had an unacceptable rate of screen freezes and paper jams.


Counties are approaching a deadline under the federal law that requires every polling place have at least one handicapped-accessible voting machine — such as a touch screen machine — that allows disabled voters to cast a secret ballot.

In addition, California requires e-voting machines to have a paper trail.

It can be difficult for counties to stay up-to-date on the status of e-voting machines, said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation.

"It's a very fast-paced, technical and detailed process," she said. "It's hard to keep up with what's going on and it's very easy for vendors to mislead officials on qualifications."

With the HAVA guidelines expected in October, that puts a lot of pressure on counties to chose a compliant system by the Jan. 1 deadline, McPherson said.

California counties will have $350 million in HAVA funds to spend on voting machines, he said. "It can be spent only one time and we want the voting machines compliant from the get-go."

The problem, said Alfie Charles, vice president of business development for Oakland-based Sequoia Voting Machines, is that there is no "pre-clearance for testing for HAVA compliance.

"There's a test for federal voting systems guidelines and a test for certification in California," Charles said, "but there's no test to determine HAVA compliance."

Sequoia makes a touch-screen system that meets the current HAVA standards, Charles said. But while counties can use the Sequoia Edge touch-screen machine in the November special election, California has not approved it for the June 2006 primary pending a change in the software.

Sequoia expects that change to be finished by the end of the year, Charles said.

Charles said the new rule could be a problem for e-voting vendors if the federal requirements change after systems were purchased.

"If there are interpretations of the accessibility requirements or different mandates from the federal government at a later date, it would be difficult for the state to require companies to bear that cost," he said.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

E-voting commentary by author Andrew Gumbel in today's LA Times

Today's Los Angeles Times features an op-ed by Andrew Gumbel, correspondent for the UK's Independent and author of the new book, Steal This Vote (a crisp and insightful piece of work which I am in the process of reading). His commentary is below.


A firewall for democracy

Two California secretaries of state have refused to certify a touch-screen voting machine, and for good reason.

By Andrew Gumbel

Bruce McPherson, California's secretary of state, has just performed an invaluable service for the voters. Only a few months into the job, he had been under intense pressure to certify the latest electronic touch-screen voting machine manufactured by Diebold Election Systems, which is supposed to help California counties meet a federally mandated January deadline for the overhaul of their election equipment. But instead of rolling over, his office conducted exhaustive tests on the Diebold TSx, discovered that it had a 10% error rate — worse than the reviled punch-card machines used in Florida in 2000 — and sent the company back to the drawing board.

This is hugely important for two reasons.

First, because companies such as Diebold have been operating far too long without adequate public oversight, while charging taxpayers tens of millions of dollars for equipment that some of the country's best computer scientists have found is sloppily programmed, dangerously insecure and virtually unable to be audited for fraud or error.

The TSx, which is fitted with an independent paper trail to make recounts possible, was waved through the hazily regulated federal certification process and was deemed to have passed muster in Utah, Ohio and a handful of other states. None appear to have noticed the paper-jamming and screen-freeze problems picked up in the California tests.

McPherson's decision is also significant because the same line of Diebold machines has now been refused certification by California secretaries of state from both major parties. McPherson is a Republican, and his predecessor, Kevin Shelley, who cracked down on Diebold last year after the company admitted shortcomings that included the use of uncertified software, is a Democrat. That shows the vulnerabilities of the electoral process are not, at heart, a question of partisan politics. Rather, this is about the integrity of this nation's democratic infrastructure.

The county officials who have succumbed to the lure of paperless touch-screen machines need to be held accountable for their lavish spending on cutting-edge technology that, fears about hacking aside, clearly isn't built very well.

Extraordinarily, many election officials still claim that the touch-screen machines sold by Diebold, Sequoia and their competitors are miracle machines guaranteeing flawless elections. Maryland's Linda Lamone, president of the National Assn. of State Election Directors, told a public hearing in Pasadena last week that e-voting skeptics were scaremongers unduly influenced by "sensationalized newspaper articles."

Never mind that those skeptics include computer scientists from Stanford, Johns Hopkins and Rice universities and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Never mind that several high-profile studies — such as the Florida commission report on the 2000 election — have concluded that optically scanned paper ballots, not touch-screens, are the safest and most reliable technology available.

The federal government also needs to be held accountable for leaving the technology of voting in a regulatory vacuum, and creating an oversight body — the Election Assistance Commission — so weak and underfunded that it is only now scrambling to draft standards for technology that has, for the most part, already been developed and sold.

Congress has no control over the machine-certification process, and the Federal Election Commission, which has drawn up technical specifications in the past, is so far behind the curve that most electronic machinery now in use meets standards drawn up as far back as 1990, the Stone Age of computing.

This lamentable state of affairs is not irreversible. Two years ago, when Shelley mandated an independent paper trail for all Californian voting systems — an essential prerequisite for proper recounts — it created a chain reaction causing 17 states to follow suit. McPherson's rejection of Diebold's substandard machine may well have a similar effect nationwide.

The voters certainly deserve better. If there is no accountability in the conduct of elections, then no other aspect of American democracy is completely safe either.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Secretary of State announces new voting equipment vendors requirements

California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson issued a news release today announcing new requirements on makers of voting machines. According to the release, "effective immediately, all voting system vendors requesting certification from McPherson's office must be compliant with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)" and all vendors will be required to "sign contracts acknowledging and agreeing to this legal condition". More details about the new requirements are featured in the release.

Report details on TSx testing show nearly 20 percent failure rate

Today's ANG newspapers feature an article by Ian Hoffman providing more details on California's recent testing of 96 Diebold TSx voting machines in Stockton. His article is featured below:


Diebold's latest electronic voting machine, desired by dozens of counties nationwide, fared worse in the nation's first mass testing than previously disclosed, with almost 20 percent of the touch-screen machines crashing.

Those software failures are likely to send Diebold programmers back to work and perhaps force the firm into weeks of independent laboratory testing.

With 17 California counties — including Alameda, Marin and San Joaquin — as well as dozens of counties in Ohio, Utah and Mississippi considering purchase of the Diebold AccuVote TSx, the delay could put at risk tens of millions of dollars in sales and throw open the door to Diebold competitors.

In Alameda County, Diebold's first large customer onthe West Coast, local officials are looking at other manufacturers' products and mass-mailing county voters to promote the virtues of absentee voting — no need to come to the polling place and use an expensive voting machine.

"We're looking at all of our options," said Acting County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold. "That means looking at every single voting system" that California might approve for voters.

For years, the county was considered Diebold territory. Other vendors, such as Sequoia Voting Systems of Oakland, figured a sales pitch was wasted time. But Keith Carson, president of the county Board of Supervisors, suspects those days "have to be more at an end than not."

"As far as the other supervisors," he said, "I can't believe they would continue down this dark path with Diebold when there are more problems with each testing."

California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson ordered the testing in the form of a massive mock election after paper jams plagued Diebold's TSx in earlier tests. The machine is mated to a printer so voters and elections officials can verify electronic votes.

Software problems occurred in those earlier tests, but state voting-systems analysts were more focused in the mock election on paper jams. Yet when Diebold representatives trucked in 96 brand-new TSx machines, and local elections officials voted on them July 20 in a San Joaquin County warehouse, nearly twice as many machines froze or crashed as had paper jams.

Last week, McPherson rejected use of the TSx, saying the machine's lack of reliability "isn't good enough for voters in California, and it isn't good enough for me."

On the strength of the paper jams alone, two-dozen critics of electronic voting rallied in front of the Alameda County administrative offices Tuesday and demanded that county supervisors withdraw from negotiations to buy the machines. Homemade signs accused the McKinney, Texas-based maker of voting machines of "stealing" elections and called on Alameda County to "dump Diebold."

"There have been serious problems for years now, and it's time for the board to take responsibility," said Judy Bertelsen, a Berkeley leader in an umbrella group, the Voting Rights Task Force.

In all, 19 machines had 21 screen freezes or system crashes, producing a blue screen and messages about an "illegal operation" or a "fatal exception error." A Diebold technician had to restart the machine for voting to resume. Ten machines had a total of 11 printer jams. Almost a third of all machines in the mock election had one problem or another.

Diebold officials say they plan to fix the problems and bring the machines back for a new mass test late this month.

Douglas Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa and an expert on computerized voting systems, isn't surprised.

Diebold's touch-screen machines run software written by Microsoft, Diebold and at least three other companies that make parts such as printers, memory cards and the touch-sensitive screen itself.

Department of Justice to Hold Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Symposium

This looks like an interesting conference, taking place in Washington, DC October 4 & 5.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Diebold TSx rejection and its impact on California counties

Secretary of State Bruce McPherson's decision last week to reject Diebold's TSx electronic voting system has prompted many to wonder what California counties plan to do for the November statewide special election and next year's statewide primary and general elections. The Voting Modernization Board recently published a report on all the counties' plans to modernize equipment in order to meet federal accessibility deadlines. As the VMB's report shows, many counties using Diebold's paper, optical scan voting system were planning to acquire one electronic voting machine per polling place to comply with the federal accessibility requirement. Other counties, such as Kern, San Diego and San Joaquin, have thousands of TSx machines sitting in warehouses that will remain unused for the time being.

KXTV in Sacramento reported that San Joaquin county has already paid $858,000 to Diebold for its TSx machine. San Joaquin's entire purchase price was $5.7 million, according to this story by Greg Kane in Saturday's Stockton Record. California's rejection of the TSx has had an impact in at least one other state. According to this story in the Salt Lake Tribune, some voting reform activists in Utah are insisting the state not move forward with its plans to spend $27 million on Diebold equipment.

Excerpts from the Stockton Record article are below.


San Joaquin County voters will cast votes on paper ballots in November's special election while more than 1,600 touchscreen voting machines remain packed away in a Stockton warehouse.

The decision came Thursday after state elections officials ruled the ATM-like machines -- which cost taxpayers $5.7 million when purchased in 2002 -- wouldn't be certified in time for the election. The touchscreen systems haven't been used since the March 2004 primary, when equipment problems in San Diego and Alameda counties led the state to outlaw their use.

California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson told Diebold Election Systems Inc. in a letter Wednesday that its TSx system had problems with paper jams and is vulnerable to freezing. He went on to deny the company's request to certify the machines but left open the option to reapply.

San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters Deborah Hench said Thursday the state's decision leaves the county with no choice but to use paper ballots. Planning for the election has to begin within a few weeks.

"They're not going to certify the TSx until Diebold comes back and corrects the problem," Hench said.

Diebold representatives didn't return calls to The Record on Friday.

San Joaquin County purchased 1,625 TSx systems at $3,200 a pop three years ago. San Joaquin County never had problems with the machines, Hench said.


State elections officials were in Stockton last week to test nearly 100 machines fitted with the modified printers, Hench said. About 10 percent of the systems experienced paper jams.

McPherson's letter also describes a "recurring problem" in which the machines freeze and need to be rebooted. Kim Alexander, president and founder of the Davis-based California Voter Foundation, said Thursday such a glitch might signal a larger problem with the equipment.

"They're going to have to do more than just tinker around with the printer to address the concerns that were brought by the secretary of state," Alexander said.

Voters using the TSx systems can cast ballots digitally by pressing their choice on an on-screen display. With paper ballots, voters fill ovals with either a No. 2 pencil or dark pen.

Diebold will pay back what the county spends on paper ballots, Hench said.

The electronic system makes the county's job of running the election far simpler, Hench said. Election officers require less training, and ballots are easier to track and count.

Critics of the touchscreen systems say they're vulnerable to hackers, software problems and losing votes. Alexander believes there are many security holes in the machines that must be addressed before they're allowed back into voting booths.

"I've felt for a long time that we rushed into electronic voting without fully taking into consideration the risks," Alexander said. "Those risks are now painfully apparent."

Hench thinks it's a matter of time before the state certifies the TSx machines. She believes the state and Diebold will find a way to get the machines ready for the June 2006 election.

"It's in all our best interest to get this worked out," Hench said. "We'll see it next year."