Government Technology

California Decertifies Voting Machines, Conditions Applied for Use



August 6, 2007 By

Debra Bowen 

After two months of unprecedented analysis of California's voting systems and related security procedures, Secretary of State Debra Bowen Friday announced some of those systems can continue operating in 2008 in California while others are too flawed to be widely used.

Each of the systems that went through the top-to-bottom review has been legally decertified, and then each of them has been recertified with the addition of a number of conditions. The primary reason for taking this step is for clarity, ensuring that everything associated with a particular system is in one single recertification document that is easy for the public, elections officials, and others to follow and understand.
 
The Diebold, Hart InterCivic and Sequoia direct recording electronic (DRE) systems were all decertified. The Diebold and Sequoia DRE systems were recertified solely for the purposes of conducting early voting and to allow counties to have one DRE machine in each polling place on Election Day for the purpose of complying with disability access requirements of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Furthermore, these DRE systems will be required to comply with increased security and post-election auditing procedures. The Hart InterCivic DRE system was also recertified but will only be required to comply with increased security and post-election auditing procedures. The Diebold, Hart InterCivic and Sequoia optical scan systems were all decertified and recertified, and will be required to adopt increased security and post-election auditing procedures.
 
"The systems we use to cast and tally votes in this state are the most fundamental tools of our democracy," said Bowen, the state's chief elections officer. "My decisions have a bias towards voting systems that score the highest with two very important measuring sticks: transparency and auditability. Applying proper auditing procedures to optical scan systems that are easier for voters to see and understand gives us the ability to begin rebuilding the voter confidence in the systems we use to conduct elections."

The fourth major voting system vendor with products in California is Election Systems and Software (ES&S). ES&S chose not to submit its AutoMARK 1.0 to the top-to-bottom review because the company said it would not be using that system after 2007, and instead submitted a new system for certification. If ES&S's new system does not receive state approval and ES&S attempts to use the currently certified AutoMARK 1.0 system again in 2008, Secretary Bowen has the right to attach additional conditions to its continued use.

Another ES&S system, InkaVote Plus, is used only by Los Angeles County to comply with the disability access requirements of HAVA. Despite its intention to continue operating the InkaVote Plus system in Los Angeles County, ES&S failed to cooperate with the top-to-bottom review by providing the information, equipment and money in a timely fashion as required by law, so Secretary Bowen decertified the InkaVote Plus. Now that ES&S has submitted all the items necessary for a review, Secretary Bowen will begin that review as soon as possible. Assuming it passes the review, the InkaVote Plus system can be recertified -- potentially with new use conditions added to it -- in time to be used in the February 2008 primary election.

"I'm mindful of the impact these decisions will have on voters, on county local elections officials, poll workers, voting system vendors and on others in California and across the nation," continued Bowen. "However, it's important to remember that in last November's election, at least two-thirds, and probably closer to 75 percent, of the 8.9 million voters who cast ballots did so using a paper absentee ballot or a paper optical scan ballot."

Secretary Bowen's decisions on voting system certifications follow her thorough review of detailed academic findings by teams of nationally respected computer experts, as well as extensive input from voters, voting system vendors, and national, state


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