By Juliet Williams
SACRAMENTO - Secretary of State Bruce McPherson on Tuesday told electronic voting machine manufacturer Diebold Election Systems that it must submit two of its machines for more rigorous federal testing before they can be certified in California.
The memory cards on the systems have "unresolved significant security concerns," according to a letter sent to Diebold Tuesday from McPherson's elections chief, Caren Daniels-Meade.
She asked the company to submit source coding, or program instructions, for the machines to federal investigators.
The problems were discovered during routine testing of the machines by state employees and independent consultants, said Secretary of State spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns. She said each system approved for use in California must meet 10 security requirements, and the Diebold machines did not meet one of those standards.
"This is a unique case in which we discovered that the source code had never, ever been reviewed," said Kerns. "There were potential security risks with it."
Dave Byrd, vice president of business operations for Diebold, said in a statement that the company looks forward to the system review.
"So far, we have complied with every certification test the Secretary's office has requested of us," Byrd said. "We have always complied with what the state has requested of us, and will treat this new request in the same spirit of cooperation."
McPherson said in a statement that he will not certify any system for use in California unless it "meets the most stringent voting system requirements. We are at a critical crossroads for voting system technology; therefore, we must take every available step to ensure the security and integrity of every vote cast in this new electronic age."
The secretary of state said last month that his office planned to hire an outside expert to perform a hacker test on a Diebold machine, but Kerns said it's premature to perform such a test until the Diebold machines have passed state and federal standards. Diebold, one of the nation's largest manufacturers of electronic voting systems, has been criticized by some activist groups as being vulnerable to outside hackers seeking to manipulate election results.
Voting machines must receive state certification before local elections officials can consider their use in California, Kerns said.
She said Tuesday's order will not affect the voting systems currently being used in any counties.