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Calif. officials urge delaying use of e-votes

Lawmakers cite security snags in primary, seek decertification

By Erika D. Smith Beacon Journal staff writer

Ohio legislators trying to delay the use of electronic voting machines got some company this week when twoCalifornia senators asked their state to do the same.

Sens. Don Perata, an Oakland Democrat, and Ross Johnson, an Irvine Republican, sent a letter to California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley asking that the machines not be used in the November election. They also warned they're ready to push through emergency legislation to force decertification of the machines.

Fourteen counties in California used touch-screen machines on March 2, including some made by Green-based Diebold Inc. Although most counties had no problems, some of the most populous Orange, Alameda and San Diego counties experienced confusion that sullied election day and sent ripples of outrage around the state.

Problems with ``card encoders'' in Alameda and San Diego counties caused many Diebold machines to start up with an unfamiliar screen and low battery. Alameda had at least 200 problems affecting about 40 percent of the precincts in San Diego County.

Both senators said they want to wait until all the ``glitches'' can be worked out.

``I think it's fair to say from the evidence so far that the test flight crashed and burned,'' Perata said.

David Bear, a spokesman for Diebold, which supplied touch-screen voting machines to Alameda, San Diego and four other California counties, denied the problems were that serious.

``Every vote was counted and tallied without a single security issue,'' he said.

Bearsaid Diebold is working with California elections officials to prevent a similar occurrence in November. Shelving them before then would be a mistake, he said.

``I think it would be real unfortunate if the advantages of electronic voting were not offered,'' he said.

But that's exactly whatOhio legislators are pushing for.

A bipartisan committee has been formed to examine the security of electronic voting machines and the possibility of requiring a paper trail that would provide a tangible record of each vote. A spending request to deploy the machines has been delayed until the committee finishes its review.

Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, said the pressure from California legislators will strengthen her message.

``I believe the nation is finally taking a look at electronic voting and whether the technology can meet the (security) needs of the voter,'' she said.

Unlike California, Ohio voters haven't used the machines yet. Fedor and others hope to keep it that way until 2006 the year Ohio is obligated to implement electronic voting.

``There's no reason for us to rush into this,'' she said.

The request by Perata and Johnson came one day after U.S. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Bob Graham of Florida called for a law requiring paper records from all electronic voting machines.

Bear said he doesn't think the new developments in California will affect Diebold's business elsewhere. The company will supply the lion's share of Ohio's counties with voting machines.

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