Byline: Ian Hoffman and David M. Drucker Sacramento Bureau
The state on Friday banned touch-screen voting machines in four counties and temporarily barred their use in 11 others until measures are taken to prevent vote-manipulation and breakdowns.
Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, California's chief elections official, came close to wholesale decertification of electronic electronic voting software voting in California - but was swayed to keep most touch screens electronic voting pros and cons in place by the compelling arguments from disabled and non-English-speaking voters, as well as local elections officials.
But he made clear that no touch screens would be sold for use in California in the future unless they are designed to also show voters a paper version of their ballot confirming their choices.
``I want to be clear: Every (new) electronic voting system in California will have a paper trail or it will have no future,'' said Shelley, who is a San Francisco Democrat.
Local elections officials were disappointed with Shelley's actions.
The counties who were decertified, but that are eligible to be recertified, must follow a 23-step process laid out by the secretary of state at least 46 days electronic voting before Nov. 2. Those who don't will be forced to use paper ballots.
Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters Conny McCormack said voters have been extremely satisfied with electronic voting - and noted they are more accurate than paper balloting. She added that Shelley's ruling could cause her problems because a pending lawsuit, if successful, would require her to install touch-screen machines in every polling place.
``I'm in a quandary and in a schizophrenic situation because we provide touch screens for any voter in L.A. County who wants to use it during the early voting period and have been doing so for 3 1/2 years successfully,'' McCormack said. ``Now I've been told I can't do that.''
National elections experts called Shelley's actions momentous.
``What California does is going to impact everybody,'' said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, a disadvantages of online voting voting-systems consultant in Washington, D.C.
In formal findings, Shelley declared all real time voting app touch screens ``defective or unacceptable'' because they provide no ``meaningful recount of the vote'' and are unsecure, unstable and technologically demanding for poll workers.
To use most existing machines in November, Shelley ordered touch-screen makers to pay $1 million for paper ballots for all polling places using touch screen machines and to hand over all of their software in readable form for review by security experts.
State auditors will perform a real-time hunt during the election for programming bugs or hacked software. Counties must file written security plans for the election.
``We are acting boldly and responsibly to improve voting systems for November,'' Shelley said. He predicted a wave of criticism - from elections officials saying he went overboard and from e-voting critics that he didn't go far enough.