Election Software Lost in Transit

Election Software Lost in Transit
Election Software Lost in Transit 

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 
were stolen.

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 
recently completed.

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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