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Voting system tester barred

Published January 6, 2007


A company that has tested electronic voting equipment nationwide - including here in the Tampa Bay area - for compliance with federal standards has been temporarily barred from approving new machines.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that the federal Elections Assistance Commission took the action against Ciber Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., because the company could not prove that required tests had been conducted.

Ciber, one of three companies charged with testing the country's electronic voting systems, has examined equipment throughout Florida, including in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.

Specifically, Ciber examined the election management systems that sit in the supervisor of elections offices of each of those five counties. Among other chores, the management system tabulates the results taken from voting machines in polling places.

David Drury, who directs Florida's Bureau of Voting System Certification, said voters should not be concerned because the management system is more resistant to tampering and failure than machines in the field.

"It's very easy to check that you should be getting the output that you should be getting," Drury said. "I don't think there's a great risk here."

Only in Pasco County has Ciber examined both the management system and the voting machines.

Drury's words were no comfort to skeptics of voting machine technology, such as Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho.

Ciber is what's known in the voting business as an independent testing authority, or ITA. Voting machine companies pay such companies to make sure their equipment meets federal criteria.

For Sancho, that's a problem.

"This whole system of protections that is supposed to ensure that our privatized elections industry adheres to public standards relies totally on ITAs," Sancho said Thursday. "Their profits can only really come from one place: the voting machine companies."

[Last modified January 6, 2007, 00:48:49]

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