State joins Diebold suit

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has decided to intervene in a pending false claims case against Diebold Inc.'s Diebold Election Systems, effectively taking over the case.

The lawsuit was originally filed by a group of citizens including Beverly Harris, a longtime critic of electronic voting and Diebold's systems in particular. Harris maintains a Web site and wrote a book, "Black Box Voting," detailing her interpretation of e-voting problems.

Now, the state of California has joined the suit, which is pending in Alameda County Superior Court, said California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, who earlier this year decertified one Diebold model and accused the company of deceptive marketing tactics.

The suit details some of the security flaws that Harris and co-plaintiff James March believe exist in Diebold's software, including the potential for someone to falsify vote totals at the central ballot tallying location by using a software security flaw.

Although putting the weight of the state behind the civil suit, Lockyer has dropped a criminal probe into the company, according to a spokesman commenting on a statement issued by Lockyer's office.

Diebold officials could not be reached for immediate comment, but the company has issued a written statement praising Lockyer's decision to drop the criminal investigation.

"As for the intervention in the false claims case, the company is confident that the state's decision to intervene will aid in a fair and dispassionate examination of the issues raised in the case," wrote Thomas Swidarski, Diebold's senior vice president of strategic and corporate development, in the statement.

A Diebold spokesman said it would be almost impossible to alter election results in the central tabulator, as Harris fears. It would be difficult to get access to the machine to begin with, he said. If someone were able to, "All you could alter is the unofficial total."

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