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More Uncertified Voting Systems in California? PDF  | Print |  Email
By Joseph Hall, Univeristy of California, Berkeley   
August 23, 2007
This article was posted at Joe Hall's Not Quite a Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

In 2003, the California Secretary of State found that DESI (Diebold Election Systems, Inc.) had marketed and sold voting systems in California that were running software uncertified by the state. In a déjà vu moment, ES&S (Election Systems and Software) was recently found to have sold uncertified hardware (and possibly software) to a number of jurisdictions in California.



People frequently point back to the 2003 DESI situation in passing when talking about the current ES&S developments. For example, Kim Zetter of Wired, an amazing journalist whom I respect immensely, said in a Threat Level post ("ES&S to be Rebuked, Fined and Possibly Banned in CA?"):

ES&S is not the first voting machine company to have sold uncertified equipment in CA. In 2003, the state discovered that Diebold Election Systems had installed uncertified software in machines in 17 counties.


(Kim has since corrected her post to reflect the following...)


However, what people don't often realize is that in 2003 there were a number of vendors besides DESI that were also deploying equipment and software that had not been federally or state certified (or both). The Secretary of State hired a consulting firm R&G Associates, Inc., to do a number of audits to assess which vendors had deployed what versions of their equipment in all California Jurisdictions. Those reports are no longer on the California Secretary of State's website, but can be found via the Internet Archive's Wayback machine: here is the DESI audit of 17 counties, here is the second audit of all the remaining counties and here is a summary and findings of the second audit.


To summarize the summary of the second audit:

  • With regard to election management software (EMS), 25 counties were found to have been running EMS software that was not federally certified but was state certified (3 DIMS, 9 DFM, 12 Sequoia and Los Angeles' InkaVote MTS) and 9 counties were found to be running EMS that was neither federally nor state certified (8 ES&S and 1 Webb).
  • With regard other voting system components, 38 counties had components that were not federally certified but were state certified (3 DIMS, 9 DFM, 8 ES&S, 17 Sequoia, and Los Angeles' InkaVote MTS) and 19 counties had components that were neither federally nor state certified (18 DESI (save Los Angeles) and 1 Webb).

Now, legally speaking, California didn't have a legal requirement for federal certification until SB 1438 (California's paper trail bill) was passed in 2004, which gave us section 19250 of the California Election Code. However, the California Secretary of State did have procedures (see 103(a)(6)) that required a "Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory" to qualify voting systems as having met the 1990 Voting System Standards.


So, in short, it was a mess in 2003... and it wasn't just DESI that wasn't playing by the rules.


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