Monday, June 12, 2006

Oakland Ditches Diebold After Lawsuit

Alameda County approves new voting system
By Chris Metinko

OAKLAND - Alameda County supervisors on Thursday approved plans for a new voting system, consisting mainly of paper ballots that will be scanned electronically and touch screens for use by disabled voters.

The board voted 3-2 to purchased the new system from Oakland-based Sequoia Voting Systems and hopes to have it in place for November's election. The new system would give the county 1,000 optical scanners and 1,000 touch-screens, enough to put one of each at every polling location.

The decision on the new system did not come easy. Dozens of county voters questioned the reliability of touch-screen voting machines.

"I don't understand why we have to get these expensive machines that are full of problems," said John Morton of Oakland who favored going back to a hand count. "I don't think waiting a day or two for results (of an election) is going to matter to most people."

The county has a spotty record with purchasing new voting systems.

In 2001, the county purchased 4,000 Diebold touch-screen machines for $12 million, but the move soon proved troublesome. The equipment had glitches, including once assigning votes to the wrong candidate.

Diebold eventually agreed in 2004 to pay the state and Alameda County $2.6 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that it made false claims when it sold its equipment to the county. The settlement came after local and state officials found Diebold had installed uncertified software in the county's touch-screens and that its system was vulnerable to hackers.

Many who spoke Thursday favored a blended system made by Election Systems & Software -- the same company Contra Costa and Solano counties use for their elections.



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