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San Francisco Examiner

Computer expert faults voting machines approved for use in Colo.

Sep. 20, 2006
The Associated Press

DENVER - A computer security expert testified Wednesday that a study has found electronic voting machines like those approved for Colorado's elections can be tampered with and reprogrammed in a matter of minutes.

Douglas Jones, a University of Iowa computer science professor, said Finnish computer expert Harry Hursti found problems with the Diebold TSX machine earlier this year in Utah.

Jones' testimony came in a lawsuit filed in Denver District Court by 13 voters who want a judge to bar the use of these voting machines in the November election, saying they are unreliable. With the election only six weeks away, they've also suggested stopgap measures to help ensure the machines count votes accurately.

Lawyers also questioned John Gardner, a secretary of state official who examined and certified the machines. Gardner acknowledged that he never had any formal computer science training and overrode some of the test results of his assistants, one of whom had a master's degree in information technology.


Deputy attorney general Maurice Knaizer, who's helping argue the case for the state, defended Gardner, ...

"He's capable, competent, and experienced," Knaizer said.


Jones testified that the Finnish study found a computer card about the size of a credit card could be inserted into the computer to reprogram. Jones also cited a Princeton University study released last week that showed how a virus could be inserted into an electronic voting machine in a minute but that involved a Diebold model that hasn't been approved in Colorado.

He said security tape usually placed over the opening where the card is inserted isn't always reliable.

Jones cited a deposition by legislative candidate Jeffrey Deitch of La Plata County, who said the counting of votes from two machines was delayed because the security tape had been broken.

Knaizer said the paper backups, required by law, allow voters to make sure their ballots were correctly recorded.

But Jones said reviews of paper copies showed that sometimes the print was too small to read, or the drawer where the paper was dispensed was left closed so voters couldn't see it. He said sometimes the paper wasn't inserted correctly, causing jams.

"We have a ways to go in making things work as well as they could," Jones said.

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