Colorado Evoting flawed but decent

A state judge in Colorado this month found the procedures used by the state to test and certify e-voting gear to be wanting, but nevertheless ruled that the machines can be used in the November general election.

Although Judge Lawrence Manzanares in the state District Court of Denver County decided not to ban the machines from use in the election, he did order the state to create and implement updated security procedures immediately.

At the same time, the judge ordered that broader certification processes be created and used in future elections. He acknowledged that work on such processes is unlikely to be completed until 2008.

Manzanares was ruling on a lawsuit filed by a group of Colorado voters against Secretary of State Gigi Dennis that challenged the state’s process of testing and certifying electronic voting machines.

The judge agreed that Dennis’ office did “an abysmal job of documenting their tests or of logging their [certification] procedures and their tests” prior to the primary. However, he said that he could not conclude that the process certified vulnerable machines.

Despite problems with the state’s testing and certification processes, Manzanares ruled that decertifying all of the installed systems six weeks before an election would create more problems than it would solve.

Andrew Efaw, an attorney at Denver-based law firm Wheeler Trigg Kennedy LLP, which represented the voter group, called the decision a “huge victory” for the plaintiffs. “The repercussions will be felt through the United States,” he said.

The initial lawsuit was filed in June and sought to block the use of touch-screen voting machines in the state because of questions about the testing and certification processes and other issues. The suit was amended in July to limit its scope to testing and certification issues.

The voter group contended that Dennis violated Colorado election laws during the certification process, and it questioned the training of the staff overseeing the effort.

Efaw contended that the state’s certification tests didn’t cover every possible threat to the machines. For instance, he said that some of the machines hadn’t been examined to see if they were vulnerable to the insertion of malicious code.

A spokeswoman for Dennis downplayed Manzanares’ criticism of the process and noted that “the judge determined the certification would stand.”

The spokeswoman said the secretary of state’s office filed plans with the court to create a set of minimum e-voting machine security standards for the November election.

After the initial lawsuit was filed, the Colorado Democratic Party began urging voters to use paper-based absentee ballots rather than e-voting systems in November. “These machines have been shown to be open to some serious problems,” said a party spokesman.

A spokesman for Omaha-based Election Systems & Software Inc., one of four suppliers of e-voting machines to Colorado, said the company will work with state elections officials to resolve the issues raised by the ruling.

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