March 21, 2006

Lawsuit seeks to bar Diebold voting system in Calif

By Adam Tanner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Some California voters and
activist groups sued the state's top election official on
Tuesday in an effort to reverse the certification of certain
electronic voting machines made by Diebold Inc..

The suit, filed in Superior Court in San Francisco, is the
latest salvo in an ongoing dispute about the security of
Diebold Election System electronic voting machines, focused on
Diebold's TSX touch-screen system.

A month ago, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson certified
Diebold Election System's TSX and Optical Scan products for use
in this year's elections after a review of their security. An
earlier, slightly modified version of the TSX was used in
California's November 2005 special election.

"In certifying the Diebold machines, the secretary has
sidestepped his duty to deny certification to voting systems
that violate state and federal standards," Dolores Huerta, a
co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America and plaintiff
in the case, said in a statement. "Diebold systems have failed
in security tests and in communities around the country."

The lawsuit seeks to block the purchase of the TSX systems
and a reversal of the secretary of state's certification.

Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman for McPherson, said her
office had not seen the lawsuit, but she said the Diebold
systems were safe and reliable.

"The Diebold systems that we have certified have passed the
most stringent requirements really in the nation," she said.
"In fact we've actually been criticized about how stringent our
process has been."

Diebold came under fire in California after the state's
March 2004 primary election for glitches at polling places
attributed to its voting systems. Some activists have
questioned their vulnerability to hacking and manipulation.

In 2004, Diebold paid $2.6 million to settle a lawsuit
alleging it had provided false information about security and
certification to obtain payments for its electronic voting
equipment in California.

Election officials say 21 of California's 58 counties have
used Diebold electronic voting systems for recent voting, and
at least seven counties are slated to use the new TSX system
this year.

"They have been successfully used for many, many years in
hundreds of elections all over the country," Diebold spokesman
David Bear said in reaction to the suit. "I don't think they
understand or quite appreciate the atmosphere they operate in,"
he said of those filing the suit.