Calif. refuses to recertify Diebold voting machines

California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson wants Diebold Election Systems to submit memory-card source code for federal testing, according to a letter sent Dec. 20 to Diebold Election Systems vice president David Byrd.

Unless and until the code is tested and certified, Diebold's application to have its voting systems re-certified in California will be suspended, wrote Caren Daniels-Meade, chief of the elections division in the Secretary's office. The memory cards, used in both optical scan and touch-screen systems, have "unresolved significant security concerns" and Diebold never submitted the code to an independent testing authority, which is required for federal certification, Daniels-Meade wrote.

"It is the Secretary of State's position that the source code for the AccuBasic code on these cards, as well as the AccuBasic interpreter that interprets the code, should have been federally reviewed," wrote Daniels-Meade.

Byrd, in a written statement, said that Diebold will review California's request.

"So far, we have complied with every certification test the Secretary's office has requested of us," Byrd said in the statement. "As the only vendor of electronic voting machines to have participated in and successfully passed volume testing in California, we know how important it is to adequately test and certify all applications of these machines to satisfy the public's demand for a reliable voting system. We have always complied with what the state has requested of us, and will treat this new request in the same spirit of cooperation."

Earlier this month, a consultant successfully changed mock election results in a test of Diebold machines in Leon County, Fla., by manipulating the system's memory card. According to the Miami Herald, Leon County election supervisor Ion Sancho scrapped Diebold's machines in favor of systems from Election Systems & Software following the hack test. The Orlando Sentinel reported that officials in Volusia County, Florida, also chose to drop Diebold shortly after Sancho conducted the test.

Diebold spokesman David Bear told the Herald the tests did not simulate real-world conditions.

Diebold Election Systems is a subsidiary of Diebold, which makes automated teller machines. Earlier this month, Diebold chairman and chief executive officer Walden O'Dell resigned. Shareholders recently filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that the company has violated securities laws, and that the company cannot assure the "quality and working order" of its voting machines.

The company believes the allegations to be without merit, according to a statement.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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