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California decertifies Diebold bugware

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In a move anticipated for several months, the state of California has decertified all touch-screen voting machines due to security snafus and vendor stonewalling.

California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley announced the decision late last week. The move is in response to Diebold's failure to deal honestly with numerous security issues in particular, but extends, at least temporarily, to all touch-screen devices. Still, only the Diebold AccuVote TSx will be strictly forbidden.

Those counties that can satisfy a list of new regulations will be permitted to use touch-screen devices other than the TSx. Among the new requirements will be a voter-verifiable paper trail for all new machines, a step that had previously been slated for 2006.

Furthermore, all polling places will be required to provide paper balloting as an option for voters who request it. Also, and quite sensibly, the machines must not have any telephone, wireless or Internet connectivity.

Diebold can now choose between fixing its systems in short order, or challenging California's commonsense decision vigorously in the courts. It will be difficult for the company to sit by and let this dangerous precedent stand, perhaps encouraging other states to question their equipment as well. ®

Thomas C Greene is the author of Computer Security for the Home and Small Office, a complete guide to system hardening, online anonymity, encryption, and data hygiene for Windows and Linux.

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