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.

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