California officials reject Diebold e-voting machine

E-voting machines malfunctioned during March presidential primary

California election officials on Thursday recommended decertifying an electronic voting machine that caused problems during the March U.S. presidential primary elections and launching an investigation of its manufacturer, Diebold Election Systems, for possible criminal conduct.

The recommendation was issued by the California Voting Systems and Procedures Panel following two days of meetings in Sacramento, the state capital. The recommendation will be sent to California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, who is expected to decide by April 30 whether to withdraw the machines before the November 2004 U.S. presidential election.

The panel based its unanimous decision in part on the "disenfranchisement" of voters who tried to use the touch-screen system during the March primary. Residents in a handful of counties who tried to use the machine, called the AccuVote-TSx, were unable to record their votes because of technical problems.

The panel also cited the system's failure to receive federal qualification and to comply with the terms of its conditional certification, which was granted in November, according to a statement from Shelley's office.

The panel recommended that its findings be sent to the state attorney general for possible civil and criminal action, the statement said. The panel also urged Shelley to back Senate Bill 1376, which would provide California officials with additional legal powers to regulate the use of e-voting machines.

Diebold representatives did not immediately return a call seeking comment. The company's older Diebold TS voting machines and its Global Election Management System software were unaffected by Thursday's recommendation.