From: Senator Debra Bowen's Office
Contact: Evan Goldberg (916) 651-4028
SACRAMENTO – “The Secretary of State shouldn’t punt the decision about whether Diebold machines should be used to count ballots in California to the federal government and ‘independent’ testing authorities that are financed by the voting machine vendors. That decision needs to be made in the open, right here in California.”
That’s how Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment, & Constitutional Amendments Committee, reacted to today’s decision by the Secretary of State to send Diebold to the federal government and the Independent Testing Authorities for more information before deciding whether to re-certify the company’s touch-screen machines for use here in California.
“The federal testing process is notoriously weak and it’s done in secret,” continued Bowen. “Plus, these supposedly ‘independent testing authorities’ the Secretary of State wants to rely on are financed by the voting machine industry and conduct their tests in secret as well. That’s why California shouldn’t be relying on proprietary software that uses secret code to count ballots. If we want to ensure we have voting systems that are reliable and secure – and that voters have confidence in – we need to be moving toward an open source software structure.”
Last week, two Florida counties decided to remove all Diebold voting machines from their polling places due to concerns the machine’s election results could be manipulated. Here in California, a number of counties bought Diebold touch-screen voting machines in 2003 and 2004 only to have them decertified after the March 2004 election when the machines prevented thousands of voters from casting their ballots, and Diebold was discovered to have violated state law by installing uncertified software on the machines before the election.
“Given what’s happened in Florida and the company’s history of installing uncertified software on its voting machines in California, it really makes me wonder why the Secretary of State is still considering allowing Diebold machines to be used here,” continued Bowen. “When you look at California’s experiences with Diebold, the bar for certifying anything this company produces has to be higher. Simply punting the decision to the federal government and the vendor community lowers that bar, it doesn’t raise it.
“The Help American Vote Act was intended to make it easier for people to vote and to improve the accuracy of the vote count,” continued Bowen. “If Diebold and the Secretary of State make it easier for people to vote, yet there’s no guarantee those votes will be counted accurately, California will have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and pulled the rug out from under our democracy in the process.”
Diebold’s first attempt to have its touch-screen TSx re-certified this summer failed when 20% of the machines crashed or froze and 10% of them couldn’t print the voter-verified paper trail required by state law. According to a staff report from the California Secretary of State, which recommends that the TSx be certified for use in California, those problems didn’t recur during a follow-up test of the machines in September 2005.
“Basically, the Secretary of State decided not to make a decision, which is certainly better than opting to re-certify the Diebold machines, but at some point, he’s going to have to decide whether he wants to make Californians vote on these error-prone touch-screens,” concluded Bowen.
For more information on the Independent Testing Authorities and electronic voting security issues, you may wish to visit http://avirubin.com/vote/, the web page of Avi Rubin, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University. Click here to see Secretary of State’s letter regarding today’s decision.