Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Voting system certification hearing tomorrow in Sacramento

Tomorrow the Secretary of State's office will conduct a public hearing on pending certifications of voting equipment made by three different manufacturers -- Sequoia, ES&S and Hart. The Secretary of State has posted a number of documents on the agency's Voting Systems web page relating to the hearing (scroll down to "Pending Certification" to find them). The collection includes the agenda and staff and consultant reports.

Although conditional certification of Diebold voting equipment has already been granted, it is likely that many activists will be showing up for this hearing to express their opposition to that certification decision, beginning with a 9:30 a.m. news conference outside the Secretary of State's office. Those who cannot attend the hearing but wish to comment can do so by email. The address is VotingSystemComment@ss.ca.gov.

The certification of Diebold's voting systems, along with those made by the other three manufacturers would increase the number and variety of voting equipment available for counties to purchase in order to comply with the state voter-verified paper audit trail law and the federal accessibility law. All of the touchscreen systems currently used in California must under law be replaced or retrofitted with a voter-verified paper audit trail printer as of Jan. 1 of this year.

At this stage, most counties are unlikely to be considering switching vendors, and are hoping that they will be able to augment their exisitng systems to comply with the federal and state laws. Counties using Sequoia touchscreens, for example, are counting on the state to lift the condition currently in place that prevents Sequoia's touchscreens from being used in a California Primary due to a component of the system that was not examined by federal testers. According to the Sequoia staff report, federal testing on Sequoia's touchscreens has been "successfully completed" and the state has received draft reports from the federal laboratories but is still awaiting final reports. According to the staff report, "A final report must be received from Wyle upon report acceptance from NASED (National Association of State Election Directors) and prior to State certification of this system."

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