Voting Machine Mess-up Du Jour (Displayed 08/16/04)

California. April, 2004. Diebold.
State begins investigation of Diebold for fraud.

Secretary of State Kevin Shelley called on the Attorney General to bring criminal and civil charges against voting-machine-maker Diebold Election Systems for fraud.*

The reasons are explained in the staff report of the California Voting Systems and Procedures Panel.** Here are some excerpts:

Prior to and during the hearing [of November 10, 2003], Diebold representatives either claimed to have obtained federal qualification for the TSx system or that federal approval was imminent.

...Diebold subsequently failed to obtain federal qualification for the entire TSx system or even to pursue federal qualification of the firmware (software that is used to operate the precinct voting machines). Indeed, Diebold not only failed to obtain federal qualification for the TSx system, but failed even to pursue federal qualification of the firmware versions the VSPP authorized Diebold to install in the wake of the discovery that uncertified software had been installed.

and ...

Less than a month before the March Primary, after repeated assurances to the contrary, this office learned that Diebold was no longer pursuing federal ITA approval of the software and firmware installed on California voting machines. Rather, Diebold had instructed the ITA to test a newer version of both software and firmware. It also became clear that the federal ITA could not approve the newer software and firmware before the March Primary.

Shortly before the March Primary, Diebold finally obtained from the federal ITAs a very limited approval to use the TSx system installed on California voting machines, with certain "patches," on a one-time basis. Shortly before the election, Diebold engaged in a crash project to install the patches on its California voting machines.[1]

[1] In a letter dated April 14, 2004, Diebold now admits that, in its haste, it failed to install these patches on at least 34 voting machines, requiring partial recounts.

and the summary ...

In sum, Diebold:

1. marketed and sold the TSx system before it was fully functional, and before it was federally qualified;

2. misrepresented the status of the TSx system in federal testing in order to obtain state certification;

3. failed to obtain federal qualification of the TSx system despite assurances that it would;

4. failed even to pursue testing of the firmware installed on its TSx machines in California until only weeks before the election, choosing instead to pursue testing of newer firmware that was even further behind in the ITA testing process and that, in some cases, required the use of other software that also was not approved in California;

5. installed uncertified software on election machines in 17 counties;

6. sought last-minute certification of allegedly essential hardware, software and firmware that had not completed federal testing; and

7. in doing so, jeopardized the conduct of the March Primary.

* California Bans E-Vote Machines. Wired News. April 30, 2004. By Kim Zetter.

** Staff Report On the Investigation of Diebold Election Systems, Inc. Presented to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley and the Voting Systems and Procedures Panel. April 20, 2004.

See: Diebold in the News

... the system we have for testing and certifying
voting equipment in this country
is not only broken, but is virtually nonexistent.
~ Michael Shamos
to the U.S. House Science subcommittee
on June 24, 2004