Colorado Voting Machines Tossed Out

Associated Press | December 18, 2007
By George Merritt

DENVER (AP) Colorado's secretary of state has declared many of the state's electronic voting machines to be unreliable, but said Tuesday that some of them could still be used in November if a software patch was installed.

Other machines that failed could be replaced with equipment certified for use in other states, Secretary of State Mike Coffman said.

Coffman met with a task force of state lawmakers to discuss what Colorado should do the day after he decertified three of the four voting equipment manufacturers allowed in the state, affecting six of Colorado's 10 most populous counties.

Either of Coffman's solutions mentioned Tuesday would have to be approved by the Legislature. The lawmakers on the task force gave no indication of whether they would accept the proposals.

In his announcement Monday, Coffman said Colorado's actions would have national repercussions. "What we have found is that the federal certification process is inadequate," he said.

The decertification decision, which cited problems with accuracy and security, affects electronic voting machines in Denver and five other counties. A number of electronic scanners used to count ballots were also decertified.

Coffman would not comment Monday on what his findings mean for past elections, despite his conclusion that some equipment had accuracy issues.

"I can only report," he said. "The voters in those respective counties are going to have to interpret" the results.

Coffman announced in March that he had adopted new rules for testing electronic voting machines. He required the four systems used in Colorado to apply for recertification.

The systems are manufactured by Premier Election Solutions, formerly known as Diebold Election Systems; Hart InterCivic; Sequoia Voting Systems; and Election Systems and Software. Only Premier had all its equipment pass the recertification.

Several county clerk and recorders said they were digesting Monday's findings.

"This report is really just part of the larger equation for us," Denver Clerk and Recorder Stephanie O'Malley said in a statement. "Once we feel we have the full picture of what the Secretary of State's report means, we can move forward with choosing our systems and preparing for the 2008 election season."

Sequoia said it was reviewing the 175-page report. Ken Fields, spokesman for ES&S, said the decertification was based on additional requirements recently imposed, while Peter Lichtenheld, a spokesman for Hart InterCivic, said his company planned to appeal based on how the state conducted the tests and maintenance of its machine.

In Ohio, the state that narrowly gave President Bush his win in 2004, a review concluded last week that electronic voting machines are vulnerable to security breaches and human error. Gov. Ted Strickland said Monday that the state must act on the study's findings by November's vote.

"This country has gone through two presidential elections where there have been, I believe, legitimate concerns raised about the fairness and the integrity of those elections," he told The Columbus Dispatch. "I don't think we should go through a third presidential election and have those questions out there."

Touch-screen machines have been purchased across the nation to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act. Nationally, $3 billion was spent to replace the punch-card voting system that faltered in the 2000 election.