Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community
We Can't Do It Without You!  
     
Home | About Us | Donate | Signup | Archives | Search
   
 
   Headlines  
 

Printer Friendly Version E-Mail This Article
 
 
California Panel: Don't Use Diebold Touch-Screen Voting Machines
Published on Thursday, April 22, 2004 by the Associated Press
California Panel: Don't Use Diebold Touch-Screen Voting Machines
by Jim Wasserman
 

SACRAMENTO - California should ban the use of 15,000 touch-screen voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems from the Nov. 2 general election, an advisory panel to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley recommended Thursday.


Panel member Marc Carrel, an assistant secretary of state, said he was "disgusted" by Diebold, which has "been jerking us around." The company, he said, has disenfranchised voters in California and undermined confidence in the new and developing technology of touch-screen voting.

By an 8-0 vote, the state's Voting Systems and Procedures Panel recommended that Shelley cease the use of the machines, saying that Texas-based Diebold has performed poorly in California and its machines malfunctioned in the state's March 2 primary election, turning away many voters in San Diego County.

The recommendation affects 15,000 Diebold touch-screen machines in San Diego, Solano, Kern and San Joaquin counties.

Thousands more machines made by Diebold and other manufacturers in 10 other counties are unaffected, although the panel is to make a recommendation regarding them within days.

The panel's decision has national implications for the voting machine maker, coming as states plan to spend billions of dollars to upgrade election equipment in the wake of the 2000 disputed presidential election in Florida.

If Shelley follows through with the recommendation, the affected counties would have to revert to paper ballots, specifically those marked by filling in ovals which are read by electronic scanners. The prospects of starting anew just months before a presidential election prompted outcries from more than a dozen voting officials statewide who would have to buy voting booths, ballot boxes, marking supplies, card readers and more scanners while retraining poll workers.

"We sold all of our voting booths to Los Angeles County. We sold our surplus card readers to smaller counties," said Riverside County Registrar of Voters Mischelle Townsend, who estimated costs of reverting to paper at $2.5 million.

Diebold was disappointed and disagreed with the recommendation, said its marketing director, Mark Radke. The company will quickly write a report outlining its objections to Shelley, who has until April 30 to make a final decision.

The vote doesn't affect thousands of Diebold optical scan machines that read marked ballot cards in 17 counties. Nor does it affect an earlier generation of 4,000 Diebold touch-screen machines in Alameda and Plumas counties.

In addition to the ban, panel members recommended that a secretary of state's office report released Wednesday, detailing alleged failings of Diebold in California, be forwarded to the state attorney general's office to consider civil and criminal charges against the company.

Diebold Election Systems of McKinney, Texas, is an affiliate of Ohio-based Diebold, Inc., a leading ATM machine maker supplying banks in North and South America.

Panel member Marc Carrel, an assistant secretary of state, said he was "disgusted" by Diebold, which has "been jerking us around." The company, he said, has disenfranchised voters in California and undermined confidence in the new and developing technology of touch-screen voting.

Local elections officials in Kern, San Diego and San Joaquin counties, which use Diebold's newest touch-screen machines said they were surprised and confused.

"I don't understand how they can say they didn't work well," said San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters Debbie Hench, who argued that the county's March election was largely problem free. The county bought 1,626 Diebold touch-screen machines for $5.7 million.

This decision will be a "step backward" for Kern County, said Registrar of Voters Ann Barnett, who bought 1,350 Diebold touch-screen machines for $5 million.

San Diego County Registrar of Voters Sally McPherson said the county spent almost $30 million for its 10,200 Diebold machines and officials there "believe in touch screens. We were prepared to move forward."

A secretary of state's report on the March 2 elections found that 573 of 1,038 polling places in San Diego County failed to open on time because Diebold voting machines malfunctioned. Voters were told to go elsewhere or come back.

Regardless of what happens in California, the head of Diebold Inc. told shareholders Thursday that the company is not considering getting out of the elections business.

Chairman and CEO Walden W. O'Dell told reporters after an annual shareholders meeting that "we will help in California if we are allowed. If we are not, we won't. I think whatever goes on in California is separate from what goes on in other states. Each state will make their own decisions."

O'Dell said the North Canton, Ohio-based company remains confident the machines are safe and secure.

California panel members, however, cited a litany of alleged problems with Diebold in recent months, including its sale of machines to the four counties without federal and state certification, last-minute software fixes before the March election and installation of uncertified software in voting machines in 17 counties.

"In my view we need a clean slate with this vendor," said panel member John Mott-Smith, chief of the state's elections division. "Most of the big problems in the March election came with Diebold equipment. People did not get to vote because these things did not function and that's not acceptable."

ON THE NET

Diebold Election Systems: http://www.diebold.com/dieboldes/

Read the bills to ban paperless electronic voting this November, SB 530 and SB1723, at http://www.legislature.ca.gov

California Secretary of State: http://www.ss.ca.gov

True Majority: http://www.truemajority.org

Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse

###

Printer Friendly Version E-Mail This Article

 
     
 
 

CommonDreams.org is an Internet-based progressive news and grassroots activism organization, founded in 1997.
We are a nonprofit, progressive, independent and nonpartisan organization.

Home | About Us | Donate | Signup | Archives | Search

To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Copyrighted 1997-2011