Heller: Clerks must use Sequoia voting machine
Saying Gaming Control Board experts have confirmed his fears about the security of Diebold Inc. electronic voting machines, Secretary of State Dean Heller made Sequoia his official selection Wednesday.
And to emphasize the point that county election officials won’t be allowed to ignore the state’s mandate, he decertified the punch-card machines still used in seven Nevada counties, including Douglas and Carson City. That means those machines won’t be legal for voting next year.
Sequoia Pacific Voting Systems is the brand Clark County has been using for most of a decade now. Heller said that fact – which greatly reduces the number of machines the state must buy – and the fact that only Sequoia has an attached printer that can provide a paper trail of individual ballots were important factors in his decision. That paper trail has been requested by numerous residents, several clerks around the state and officials including U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., to better verify how the vote went in case of a recall.
But he said the report by Marc McDermott, of the Gaming Control Board’s Electronic Services Division, was the key. The report says after reviewing two different reports on the Diebold system and because its computer code has been published for any hacker to see on the Internet, McDermott doesn’t believe it is secure.
The Diebold system, he advised Heller, “represents a legitimate threat to the integrity of the election process.”
The report says Sequoia is a more secure option.
“When the Gaming Control Board’s Electronic Services Division reports to me that one system is superior to another, I’m going to place my confidence in that equipment,” Heller said.
He said the state will buy, with federal money, the necessary machines for every county except Clark, which already has some 3,000 of them. He said the state will also help Clark add hard-copy printers to its existing system and pay for training and other costs of the change-over statewide.
All 17 counties in the state will be using the same voting system in the 2004 elections.
“I believe it’s important for the state of Nevada that everybody on election day votes in the same manner,” he said.
Heller said only three of Nevada’s county clerks preferred the Diebold machines – including Carson City’s Alan Glover and Douglas County’s Barbara Reed.
Glover said Wednesday Heller’s announcements opens the way to move forward, but leaves a lot of logistical questions unanswered.
“The key is how much equipment do we get and when can we get on with the training,” he said. “If we get it going, then we should be OK.”
Washoe County’s Dan Burk, who is already using an older Diebold system, said he has worked with both companies and is comfortable with either system.
“We’ll do what’s necessary,” he said. “It’s time for the arguments to be over. We’re less than 10 months away form the primary.”
Burk said his only concern is getting necessary federal approvals and getting the machines here as quickly as possible so everyone has time to train with them and has time to familiarize voters with the new touch-screen machines.
Heller said he doesn’t expect much difficulty in educating voters since the machines work very much like touch-screen ATM and gas station credit card machines.
“The system isn’t difficult because I think most people are familiar with touch-screen technology,” he said.
Heller has $5 million in federal funds but estimates the conversion will cost anywhere from $7.5 million to nearly $10 million.
While there is another $5.7 million in federal money with Nevada’s name on it, the cash hasn’t been released to the state yet.
Heller said it’s not critical to get all the machines immediately because clerks and election officials can begin training almost immediately on the machines Sequoia has already brought to Nevada.