E-Voting Provider Accused Of Fraud; 14,000 Touch-Screens Banned In
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 30, 2004
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA--In a decision that could affect voters with disabilities around the world, California's Secretary of State has banned one-third of the state's newly-acquired electronic voting systems, and has accused the machines' manufacturer of criminal misconduct.
On Friday, Kevin Shelley asked California Attorney General Bill Lockyer to investigate Diebold Election Systems Inc. for fraud, claiming the company lied to state officials about its AcuVote-TSx Voting System.
The new touch-screen systems, such as those manufactured by Diebold, have been favored by voters with disabilities. The systems have accessibility features that allow many people with disabilities which affect mobility, reading, hearing and vision, to independently cast a private ballot. Federal law requires voting sites to have accessible voting systems in place by 2006.
The systems have been criticized in the past, however, for not creating a paper record of each vote -- making recounts impossible-- and for not being tamper-proof, thus allowing computer hackers to change election results.
Shelley's decision is based on recommendations from a state advisory panel which conducted hearings earlier in the month.
"I'm asking the attorney general to pursue criminal and civil actions against Diebold in this matter, based on finding of fraudulent action," Shelley said."They broke the law. Their conduct was absolutely reprehensible."
Shelley accused Diebold of using aggressive marketing to deceive the state into installing 14,000 of its touch-screen systems, by falsely stating that the machines had been approved by the federal government.
"We will not tolerate deceitful tactics engaged in by Diebold and we must send a clear and compelling message to the rest of the industry: Don't try to pull a fast one on the voters of California because there will be consequences," Shelley said.
Diebold immediately responded with a lengthy statement denying Shelley's accusations. Company officials also said they planned to work with the state to handle any problems.
A spokesperson for Lockyer said the attorney general's office would review Shelly's allegations.
The decision means that up to two million voters in four California counties will have to use optical scan voting systems, in which voters mark their choices in ovals on paper ballots, in the November general election.
"I anticipate his decision will have an immediate and widespread impact," said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation. "California is turning away from e-voting equipment, and other states are sure to follow."
Diebold provides electronic voting systems to counties around the world, including the world's largest democracy, India.
Key Documents On Electronic Voting Systems (California Secretary of State)
Press release: Moving Forward After California Secretary of State Action (Diebold Election Systems)
Help America Vote Act of 2002 (Federal Election Commission)