Board of Elections Ignores Rules to Escrow Code, Identify Programmers
Raleigh, North Carolina - The North Carolina Board of Elections certified Diebold Election Systems to sell electronic voting equipment in the state yesterday, despite Diebold's repeated admission that it could not comply with North Carolina's tough election law. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) believes that this raises important questions about the Board of Elections' procedures as well as the integrity of Diebold's bid for certification.
In all, three companies were certified for e-voting in North Carolina: Diebold, Sequoia Voting Systems, and Election Systems & Software. However, Keith Long, an advisor to the Board of Elections who was formerly employed by both Diebold and Sequoia, has said that "none of them" could meet the statutory requirement to place their system code in escrow. Instead of rejecting all applications and issuing a new call for bids as required by law, the Board chose to approve all of the applicants.
"The Board of Elections has simply flouted the law," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "In August, the state passed tough new rules designed to ensure transparency in the election process, and the Board simply decided to take it upon itself to overrule the legislature. The Board's job is to protect voters, not corporations who want to obtain multi-million dollar contracts with the state."
Last month, Diebold obtained a broad temporary restraining order that allowed it to evade key transparency requirements without criminal or civil liability. The law requires escrow of the source code for all voting systems to be certified in the state and identification of programmers. Diebold claimed that it could not comply because of its reliance on third-party software.
Monday, responding to EFF's arguments, a judge dismissed Diebold's request for broad exemptions to the law and told Diebold that if it wanted to continue in its certification bid, it must follow the law or face liability. Diebold had told the court that it would likely withdraw from the bidding process if it was not granted liability protection. But instead, Diebold went forward with the certification bid.
Diebold's certification now means it is permitted to sell e-voting equipment in North Carolina. But Zimmerman says that any county that buys from Diebold is taking a risk.
"If Diebold's certification is revoked, counties using their equipment could be left holding a very expensive bag," Zimmerman said.
Despite Long's assertion, at least one Diebold competitor -- Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software -- has publicly stated that it is capable of meeting the escrow requirement for the code used it its system.
For more on the judge's decision Monday:
Electronic Frontier Foundation