December 21, 2005

California seeks US test for Diebold vote system

By Jim Christie

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California's top election
official will ask the federal government to review the security
of software used with Diebold Inc.'s electronic voting machines
and investigate claims that results could be vulnerable to
hackers, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Diebold has been dogged by complaints while trying to
certify its electronic voting machines for sale in California,
the most populous U.S. state and a potentially lucrative

County election officials in California and other states
are eager to upgrade paper-based voting systems to avoid
controversies like that surrounding the recount of punch-card
ballots in Florida during the 2000 presidential election.

Some groups, however, question the security of electronic
voting systems and are concerned about Diebold in particular.

The company has been under fire from activists over former
company chairman and chief executive Walden O'Dell's role in
President George W. Bush's reelection campaign in Ohio, and
some charge Diebold's voting systems are not as safe from
tampering as the company claims.

The elections watchdog group Black Box Voting Inc. has
offered to California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson to
arrange for a computer security consultant to attempt to hack a
Diebold voting system.

McPherson spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns declined to discuss
the offer. She said the decision to seek a federal review was
based on the discovery that federal officials had not tested
software on cards that voters would use to operate the Diebold
electronic voting machines.

The so-called memory cards also store voting records.

"At issue is the source code that is located on the memory
card," Kerns said, adding that if the software is found to be
secure then McPherson could move forward on evaluating the
Diebold systems.

If certified quickly, the systems could be deployed by
county officials for California's June 2006 election.

A Diebold official said the company would cooperate with
McPherson's request for a federal review and other
certification requirements.

"Diebold Election Systems is always willing to participate
in responsible testing to show that our voting systems are up
to the task of giving more Californians an accessible and
reliable way to vote," said Dave Byrd, vice president of
business operations of Diebold Election Systems.