[LINK] Electronic voting critics sue Diebold under whistle-blower
brd at austarmetro.com.au
Tue Jul 13 16:43:52 EST 2004
Electronic voting critics sue Diebold under whistle-blower law
Monday, July 12, 2004 Posted: 11:46 AM EDT (1546 GMT)
SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- Critics of electronic voting are suing
Diebold Inc. under a whistle-blower law, alleging that the company's shoddy
balloting equipment exposed California elections to hackers and software
California's attorney general unsealed the lawsuit Friday. It was filed in
November but sealed under a provision that keeps such actions secret until
the government decides whether to join the plaintiffs.
Lawmakers from Maryland to California are expressing doubts about the
integrity of paperless voting terminals made by several large
manufacturers, which up to 50 million Americans will use in November.
The California lawsuit was filed in state court by computer programmer Jim
March and activist Bev Harris, who are seeking full reimbursement for
Diebold equipment purchased in California.
Issues cited by the case include Diebold's use of uncertified hardware and
software, and modems that may have allowed election results to be published
online before polls closed.
They are asking California to join the lawsuit against Diebold. The state
has not yet made a decision.
State election officials have spent at least $8 million on paperless
touchscreen machines. Alameda County, for one, has spent at least $11
Under the whistle-blower statute, March and Harris could collect up to 30
percent of any reimbursement.
"This is about money now -- a case of the capitalist system at work," said
March, of Sacramento. "The laws on voting products and processes are
unfortunately unclear. But the law on defrauding the government is really,
really clear. Going after the money trail is cleaner than going after
Diebold spokesman David Bear said Saturday the North Canton, Ohio-based
company has not been served with the lawsuit and would not comment until it
reviewed the case.
Election officials have until September 7 to decide whether to join the
lawsuit, said Tom Dresslar, spokesman for state Attorney General Bill
Alameda County also has not yet decided whether to participate, said Elaine
Ginnold of the county's registrar of voters office. She said Diebold has
been "extremely responsive" in addressing problems with its system used in
the March primary, which forced at least 6,000 of 316,000 voters to use
backup paper ballots.
"I think we avoided a major crisis -- it would have been much, much worse
had we not had those paper ballot backups," Ginnold said.
Earlier this year, California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley banned one
Diebold voting system unless counties met a host of conditions, including
precautions to prevent tampering and giving paper ballots to voters who
In the March primary, 573 of 1,038 polling places in San Diego County
failed to open on time because of computer malfunctions. A software bug in
North Carolina's 2002 general election deleted 436 electronic ballots from
six paperless machines in two counties.
Some people are critical of the use of the whistle-blower statute with its
reward system for plaintiffs.
"I would like to see people support a real solution rather than just try to
cash in," said Alan Dechert, founder of Open Voting Consortium Inc., whose
voting system relies on nonproprietary software. "There are a lot of people
who could be a tremendous asset, but they're grandstanding and reveling in
Foolproof systems don't take into account the ingenuity of fools.
-- Gene Brown
brd at austarmetro.com.au
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