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Secretary of State Orders Audit of All Counties' Voting Systems

Review of upgraded touchscreen software leads to discovery that two registrars installed it without state's OK.

November 13, 2003|Allison Hoffman and Tim Reiterman | Times Staff Writers

Responding to revelations that at least one county used unapproved voting software in the Oct. 7 recall election, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has ordered an audit of voting systems used in all 58 California counties.

State elections officials reviewing an upgraded version of Diebold Inc.'s Accuvote touchscreen voting machines for future certification were told by company employees that the new software had already been installed in Alameda and Plumas counties -- without state approval.

The software had been certified by a federal panel for use in the states.

"We believed that with the federal certification [of the software], we were meeting state certification," said Diebold spokesman David Bear. He said the company would cooperate with the audit.

Shelley also said he would require the chief executive of each voting system company to affirm, under penalty of perjury, that no significant changes be made to elections systems or software without asking for approval from the secretary of state's office.

Terri Carbaugh, a spokeswoman in the secretary of state's office, said, "From our point of view, modifications to software require certification."

Alameda and Plumas counties are the only two in California using the Diebold touchscreen systems. Bradley Clark, Alameda County's registrar, said that the new software had been installed before the recall election, but Kathleen Williams, Plumas County's registrar, said that she had not installed the upgrade before the election.

Los Angeles County Registrar Conny B. McCormack said the incident highlighted ongoing uncertainty in Sacramento about how to regulate electronic voting.

She said all counties in the state, whether they use electronic or mechanical voting systems, had installed significant software upgrades in the past several years to accommodate changes to primary voting and to handle the unique recall election itself.

"All of us have made changes to our software -- even major changes -- and none of us have gone back to the secretary of state," McCormack said. "But it was no secret we've been doing this all along. [Shelley] knew we were making changes."

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