Clock Ticks On Voting Machines

January 29, 2006 · Filed Under Uncategorized · Comments Off 

Look for a busy week to come in the ongoing saga of voting systems that can, or can't, be used by California's 58 counties in June.

On Monday, Assemblymember Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) is expected to introduce legislation to allow Alameda County to conduct the June 6 primary by mail. Alameda officials say they're in a pinch... because the maker of the county's 4,000 touchscreen machines is not planning to modify them to comply with the new state law requiring a voter-verified paper record of each ballot cast.

Hancock will reportedly insert the "mail ballot" language into an existing bill that's in the Senate, thereby avoiding Tuesday's deadline for bills to make it out of their house of origin. But Capitol watchers say the bill faces a very tough battle. As an urgency measure, it needs bipartisan support. And in the past, some GOP lawmakers have opposed all mail elections over concerns about voter fraud.

Meantime, Tuesday is the deadline set by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson for voting system manufacturers to submit those systems for state certification. But that means those machines would have to already have met all federal requirements.

As of now, the Secretary's office says only one system appears in real danger of not being ready for June... a machine made by Election Systems & Software (ES&S) and last used in Merced County.

But the real headlines are likely to be the status of machines made by Diebold Elections Systems, a company that has been at the center of controversy over voting machine security issues. 17 counties have plans to use Diebold machines in June, but state officials have demanded the company get new federal approval of some of the internal components of those machines. And as of now, no one seems to have a definitive timeline on that process.

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