Wednesday, December 21, 2005

CA Secretary of State kicks Diebold certification back to the feds

I'm interrupting my vacation time to share some breaking news....yesterday California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson issued this press release announcing he is returning Diebold's latest voting system application to the federal testing authorities for further evaluation. Here is an excerpt from the letter the SoS sent to Diebold:


Unresolved significant security concerns exist with respect to the memory card used to program and configure the AccuVote-OS and the AccuVote-TSX components of this system because this component was not subjected to federal source code review and evaluation by the Independent Testing Authorities (ITA) who examined your system for federal qualification. It is the Secretary of State's position that the source code for the AccuBasic code on these cards, as well as for the AccuBasic interpreter that interprets this code, should have been federally reviewed.


There are several news stories today about this development. For further details, see John Wildermuth's article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Ian Hoffman's article in the Oakland Tribune, and Greg Kane's article in the Stockton Record, excerpts from which are featured below.


At issue is the software language Diebold uses in the memory cards for both machines, according to a letter from state elections chief Caren Daniels-Meade. Critics say it contains a security flaw that allows outsiders to access and manipulate ballots.

Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman for McPherson's office, said Tuesday that the source code wasn't reviewed in a previous federal inspection of the OS and TSx machines. A Finnish computer expert reportedly used the flaw twice to hack into OS memory cards during separate tests in Florida this year.

San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters Deborah Hench said Tuesday that she doesn't believe a new round of testing would reverse the government's approval of the equipment. However, the latest delay in the state's certification of the TSx system leads Hench to wonder if the 1,600 machines the county agreed to purchase for $5.7 million will be available for elections in 2006.

"It makes it less and less likely that we'll be able to use it for the June election," Hench said. "What else are they going to make Diebold do to get certified?"

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