Friday, August 10, 2007

Elections - NY Times - California restricts Sequoia, Diebold , Hart

Published in the New York Times, Saturday, August 4, 2007

California Restricts Voting Machines


Filed at 10:55 a.m. ET

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California's top elections official placed rigorous security conditions on voting equipment used in dozens of counties and limited the use of two of the most widely used machines statewide.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced the measures minutes before midnight Friday, making good on a promise to tell counties at least six months before California's Feb. 5 presidential primary if their voting equipment would be decertified.

The announcement leaves the most affected counties with little time to find alternate equipment in time for the primary. The decision follows an eight-week security review of voting systems used in all but a few of California's 58 counties.

University of California computer experts found that voting machines sold by three companies -- Diebold Election Systems, Hart InterCivic and Sequoia Voting Systems -- were vulnerable to hackers and that voting results could be altered.

Bowen said she had decertified the machines, then recertified them on the condition they meet her new security standards. She also limited the Diebold and Sequoia machines to one per polling place. That will force some counties to find replacement equipment on a tight schedule.

Bowen ordered the review, which was released last week, to ensure California would not face the same doubts about the accuracy of its voting systems that hit Florida after the 2000 election and Ohio in 2004.

The additional requirements she imposed included banning all modem or wireless connections to the machines to prevent them from being linked to an outside computer or the Internet. She also required a full manual count of all votes cast on Diebold or Sequoia machines to ensure accuracy.

Bowen said the study revealed some vulnerabilities that would allow hackers to manipulate the systems ''with little chance of detection and with dire consequences.'' Her review also found that the machines posed problems for disabled voters.

Company officials have downplayed the results of Bowen's review, saying they reflected unrealistic, worst-case scenarios that would be counteracted by security measures taken by the companies and local election officials.

Officials with Sequoia said they were disappointed with Bowen's withdrawal of the company's certification but would make necessary improvements. They said their equipment is accurate and secure.

Hart InterCivic issued a news release defending its equipment and promising to comply with Bowen's requirements.

A message left with Diebold early Saturday was not immediately returned.

Machines made by a fourth company, Election Systems & Software, were not included in the review because it was late providing information the secretary of state's office needed, said Nicole Winger, a spokeswoman for Bowen.

The secretary of state launched a separate review of that company's Inkavote Plus system, which is used only in Los Angeles County. On Friday, Bowen said she had decertified that equipment but would review and reconsider it.

A message left for an ES&S spokesman early Saturday morning was not immediately returned.

Link to online story. Archived here.

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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.