By Kim Zetter
December 19, 2007
More than a hundred computer chips containing voting machine software
were lost or stolen during transit in California this week.
Two cardboard shipping tubes containing 174 EPROMs loaded with voting
machine software were sent via Federal Express on December 13th from the
secretary of state's office in Sacramento to election officials in
nineteen California counties that use optical-scan voting machines made
by Diebold Election Systems. But on Monday, two shipping tubes arrived
empty to one of these counties.
In San Diego County, one of the empty tubes arrived with no lid on the
end of it to close the tube; the second tube had a lid, but it was
loosely taped shut.
Nicole Winger, spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, says
that the California highway patrol and the Sacramento County sheriff's
department are investigating whether the chips fell out of the tubes or
The chips contained firmware to run the optical-scan equipment that San
Diego uses in its central counting office.
According to Winger, new firmware was being shipped to the counties
because previous software had been changed following a top-to-bottom
review of voting machine software and hardware that the state had
Diebold, which recently changed its name to Premier Election Solutions,
asked the secretary of state's office to observe the preparation,
packaging and shipping of the chips. Winger says this was all done from
the secretary of state's office, with both state staff and Diebold staff
present. Winger says Federal Express is Diebold's preferred shipping
method for delivering its product to counties. She said the state is
currently working out plans to deliver new chips to San Diego and that
preparations for the presidential primary election on February 5th will
not be delayed by the mailing mishap.
I should note that San Diego filed suit against California Secretary of
State Debra Bowen this week for a new requirement she has instituted
that compels counties using voting machines to conduct hand recounts of
10 percent of randomly selected precincts in races in which the margin
of victory is less than half of 1 percent. State law requires electronic
voting machines to produce a paper trail, and California law already
requires counties to conduct a hand count of 1 percent of randomly
selected precincts after an election -- a move that, in the case of
ballots cast on electronic voting machines, can help catch discrepancies
between the digital votes and the paper records.
San Diego County's registrar of voters, Deborah Seiler, says the extra
10 percent requirement would cause more work for election staff and
delay election results. She says Bowen overstepped her legislative
authority in demanding the hand count and wants a court to exclude San
Diego from the requirement.
Seiler is a former sales representative for Diebold Election Systems.
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