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Election Software Lost in Transit PDF  | Print |  Email
By Kim Zetter   
December 20, 2007

This article appeared on the wired.com Threat Level Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

 

FederalexpresstruckMore than a hundred computer chips containing voting machine software were lost or stolen during transit in California this week.


Two cardboard shipping tubes containing 174 EPROMs loaded with voting machine software were sent via Federal Express on December 13th from the secretary of state's office in Sacramento to election officials in nineteen California counties that use optical-scan voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems.

 

But on Monday, two shipping tubes arrived empty to one of these counties.

 

In San Diego County, one of the empty tubes arrived with no lid on the end of it to close the tube; the second tube had a lid, but it was loosely taped shut.

 

Nicole Winger, spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, says that the California highway patrol and the Sacramento County sheriff's department are investigating whether the chips fell out of the tubes or were stolen.

 

The chips contained firmware to run the optical-scan equipment that San Diego uses in its central counting office.

 

According to Winger, new firmware was being shipped to the counties because previous software had been changed following a top-to-bottom review of voting machine software and hardware that the state had recently completed.

 

Diebold, which recently changed its name to Premier Election Solutions, asked the secretary of state's office to observe the preparation, packaging and shipping of the chips. Winger says this was all done from the secretary of state's office, with both state staff and Diebold staff present. Winger says Federal Express is Diebold's preferred shipping method for delivering its product to counties. She said the state is currently working out plans to deliver new chips to San Diego and that preparations for the presidential primary election on February 5th will not be delayed by the mailing mishap.

 

I should note that San Diego filed suit against California Secretary of State Debra Bowen this week for a new requirement she has instituted that compels counties using voting machines to conduct hand recounts of 10 percent of randomly selected precincts in races in which the margin of victory is less than half of 1 percent. State law requires electronic voting machines to produce a paper trail, and California law already requires counties to conduct a hand count of 1 percent of randomly selected precincts after an election -- a move that, in the case of ballots cast on electronic voting machines, can help catch discrepancies between the digital votes and the paper records.

 

San Diego County's registrar of voters, Deborah Seiler, says the extra 10 percent requirement would cause more work for election staff and delay election results. She says Bowen overstepped her legislative authority in demanding the hand count and wants a court to exclude San Diego from the requirement.

 

Seiler is a former sales representative for Diebold Election Systems.

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