California releases e-voting standards

Election officials in California now have a set of standards to follow when using touch-screen voting machines. Secretary of State Kevin Shelley released the standards last week, about six weeks after he decertified all touch-screen voting machines in the state.

The standards will govern the use of a voter-verified paper trail, which all touch-screen machines in California must be equipped to produce by July 1, 2006. County officials who want to use the machines this year but don't have a paper-trail capability must meet a long list of security measures that fall under Kelley's earlier mandate.

San Diego County election officials have opted not to use touch-screen voting machines this year, according to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune. They instead negotiated an amendment to their contract with Diebold Inc.'s Diebold Election Systems to provide optical scan machines. To use them, voters mark their choices on a paper card, which the machine then reads.

County officials made the decision to opt out after 573 touch-screen machines malfunctioned during the Democratic primary election, forcing some polling places to open late and turn away early voters.

Meanwhile, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) called for an investigation after Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood and other state officials became aware of a problem in the Election Systems & Software machines used in 11 Florida counties.

The software glitch made it difficult to accurately audit the machines, and state officials had been aware of the issue for almost a year, according to articles that Wexler cited in Florida newspapers. However, they maintain that there was an accurate count of the votes.

Wexler, in a letter to Florida's Attorney General, questioned the timing of the departure of Ed Kast, Florida's Division of Elections chief, who resigned earlier this month.

Wexler filed a lawsuit against Hood, but it was dismissed last month.

Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman in Hood's office, said that Kast was well liked and that he left for personal reasons. Wexler's efforts are undermining voter confidence, she added.

"That letter, like his lawsuit, is misguided," Nash said.

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