From: Senator Debra Bowen's Office
Contact: Evan Goldberg (916) 651-4028
SACRAMENTO – “The fact that we’re only learning about this more than a month after it happened is as outrageous as it is unacceptable. You don’t build people’s confidence in the voting systems you’re asking them to use by refusing to talk about the problems with the machines in public. I don’t know why the Secretary of State is so intent on keeping all of the problems with these machines a secret, but California voters deserve better.”
That was how Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee, reacted to a report from the Associated Press today that it had uncovered a letter from the California Secretary of State’s office sent shortly after the November 2005 special election disclosing problems with the Elections Systems & Software (ES&S) voting machines used in that election.
According to the report from the Associated Press, it obtained a copy of a letter sent by Assistant Secretary of State Bradley J. Clark to ES&S on November 17th, nine days after the November 8th special election. The letter stated the Secretary of State would start decertifying ES&S’s software if the company didn’t immediately begin to address problems with the machines that were raised in the letter.
“When does the Secretary of State think voters are entitled to know there’s a problem with the voting equipment that’s supposed to be secure, reliable, and accurate? Five days? Five weeks? Five months?,” said Bowen. “My second question is ‘What else is out there that the Secretary of State isn’t telling us about.’ This request should be unnecessary, but I’m formally asking the Secretary of State to release any and all correspondence that he or his staff has had with voting machine vendors, along with all the documentation related to the certification of any and all voting equipment and systems.”
This is the second time in a week the Secretary of State has chosen secrecy over an open, public process on the electronic voting machine issue. On Tuesday, he punted the decision over whether Diebold’s touch-screen machines should be re-certified for use in California to the federal government and the Independent Testing Authorities that are controlled by the vendors. Now it’s been revealed that he failed to disclose problems with the ES&S machines used in the special election for more than five weeks.
“The decisions about what type of voting equipment Californians are going to use to elect their representatives and approve or defeat proposed initiatives need to be made in public, in the open, right here in California,” reiterated Bowen. “The decisions the Secretary of State has made recently, first to keep the file drawer slammed shut on what happened with the ES&S systems in November, and then to punt the decision on whether the Diebold touch-screens should be re-certified for use in California back to the federal government, aren’t how our democracy is supposed to work.
“California shouldn’t be relying on proprietary software from companies like Diebold and ES&S that uses secret code to count ballots,” concluded Bowen. “If we want to ensure we have voting systems that are reliable and secure – and that voters have confidence in – we need to start moving toward an open source software structure.”