The Lompoc Record


Regional officials vow confidence in vote machines


By Randi Block/Staff Writer

December 23, 2005


Elections officials expressed confidence Thursday that voting machines in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties are completely reliable despite demands by the California Secretary of State's office that the machines be further tested.


Officials in both counties said that strong measures are already in place to ensure the accuracy of ballot counting and integrity of elections, and that any action required by the state should not affect future elections.


Recently, Florida officials allowed a computer hacker to attempt to compromise their voting system. When the hacker succeeded, other states did additional testing to ensure a similar situation couldn't happen elsewhere.


The California Secretary of State's office is performing additional testing on source codes for machines produced by Diebold Election Systems that are used in 17 counties, including San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.


The independent testing authority, which functions at the federal level, will be performing the tests within the next few weeks “to make sure there is no question that anything in the system could ever be compromised,” said Julie Rodewald, clerk-recorder for San Luis Obispo County.


Results are expected to be returned within three weeks.


The machines in question allow optical scan voting, in which voters fill out paper ballots and enter them into a system that electronically tabulates results.


Santa Barbara County purchased more than 200 of these machines in 2000, which cost approximately $1 million, said Joe Holland, clerk-recorder-assessor for Santa Barbara County.


Each machine is tested extensively before, during and after each election, and strong security measures protect against fraud, because the computer's memory card is behind a key and security seal, Holland added.


“I am confident that these machines work fine,” he said. “I don't think there's a problem. I can't imagine what they'd find.”


Around 100 of the same machines were also purchased in San Luis Obispo County in 1999, and cost around $600,000, Rodewald said.


Regardless of the results of the test, the machines are already certified for the June 2006 elections in both counties.


If any problems are found in the system, the counties will be required to modify future security measures, but neither official believes new machines will have to be purchased.


“If something comes out of the test, we'll work with the state to identify additional security procedures that can be used during elections,” Rodewald said.


It is also important to note that no problems have been recorded with the systems in either county, and residents can be assured that past elections were not compromised in any way.


Randi Block can be reached at 347-4580 or rblock@santamaria


© Copyright 2005 Lee Central Coast Newspapers. All Rights Reserved.



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