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Pact reached on electronic vote security

DEAL: It lets Riverside County use its devices. Talks hit snag for San Bernardino County.

By MICHELLE DeARMOND / The Press-Enterprise

One day after agreeing to end a months-long battle with the secretary of state, Riverside County officials signed an agreement Wednesday consenting to new electronic-voting security measures, while San Bernardino County officials remained in negotiations.

The deal between Riverside County and Secretary of State Kevin Shelley complies with most of the security measures Shelley outlined in May after decertifying all touch-screen machines in the state.

Once Shelley signs the agreement, Riverside County's machines can be used in November's presidential election, said Carol Dahmen, a spokeswoman for Shelley.

In San Bernardino County, one sticking point remained late Wednesday: Shelley's demand that the election results for each machine be posted at polling places and the registrar's office. The requirement would delay the close of polls, and county officials would rather post the results at just the registrar's office, said Daniel Haueter, chief deputy counsel for San Bernardino County.

"We're trying to talk. I would think that we can iron that out," Haueter said, explaining he expects a resolution soon. "It certainly isn't a deal buster."

Riverside County is exempt from the paper-trail requirement because its machines don't yet have individual printers. Under a previous order by Shelley, all counties must meet a July 2006 deadline that touch-screen machines have printers attached allowing voters to see, but not touch, a paper copy of their ballot.

In April, Shelley declared that the electronic-voting systems were unreliable and subject to security breaches.

He demanded that counties offer paper ballots as an alternative to electronic voting and that computer disks record the images of voted ballots cast on each touch-screen machine. His original mandates required that counties give him four disks with the images, but Riverside County only will have to provide one disk, according to its memorandum.

The truce reached Tuesday between the two counties and Shelley came a week after a federal judge ruled that Shelley had the right to decertify the electronic systems.

Both counties decided Tuesday to out of the federal lawsuit against Shelley. It was unclear Wednesday whether the remaining plaintiffs, Kern and Plumas counties and advocates for the disabled, would pursue the case.

In decertifying electronic voting systems, Shelley had said Riverside and San Bernardino counties and eight other counties could not use their touch-screen machines until they complied with 23 new security measures.

Sequoia Voting Systems, which provides machines for both counties, already agreed to comply with five of those measures. The remaining 18 were the counties' responsibilities.

Officials in Riverside and San Bernardino counties said they decided to comply because it's less than four months until the election.

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