03 August 2005

Unplugged: County voters will return to paper and pen

Ben van der Meer - Aug 03, 2005

You'll find conventional ink pens and paper sheets with bubbles to fill in for the November special election, says San Joaquin County's registrar of voters.

Top elections official Deborah Hench said that while the state's certification of Diebold Inc.'s voting machines is on hold, voters will make their preferences known the relatively low-tech way, at least this year.

"We'd love to have certification before the end of the year," Hench said, "and I know Diebold would love to have certification sooner rather than later."

But state officials held up that process last month after tests showed that Diebold's touch-screen voting machines had paper jams nearly 10 percent of the time, and were also prone to screen freezes.

While Ohio-based Diebold works on the problem, Hench said, she doesn't expect to use touch-screen machines -- though they performed flawlessly San Joaquin County in the 2003 gubernatorial recall -- until June 2006 at the soonest.

Though that means the November election will cost the county more -- Hench said the price tag is about $1.2 million -- Diebold officials have agreed to pay for printing costs for election ballots, which will save about $300,000.

[...] Concerns have also popped up about the Diebold optical-scan machines the county will use in November to check paper ballots. Cheryl Lillenstein, a Palo Alto resident who saw a report about the machines' problems, pointed out that professional hackers in Florida demonstrated in June that the optical-scan machines can also be hacked.

"Doesn't this test -- astonishingly, the first of its kind -- demonstrate that it's time for California to test ALL the voting equipment, and not just accept secret vote counting software that voting vendors control?" she said in an e-mail.


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