Ohio holds on voting machine purchase

The state of Ohio is delaying its $136-million purchase of new voting equipment and services until it can complete further security reviews and audits of electronic voting devices, Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell announced today.

The state planned to announce qualified vendors, terms of service and warranty today, but security issues, as well as a court action on behalf of Sequoia Voting Systems Inc. of Oakland, Calif., prohibited the release of the successful bidders, Blackwell said.

"Our initial inquiries into security issues regarding e-voting devices leaves some unanswered questions," Blackwell said. "As a result, we will put these voting devices through an extensive security assessment and validation process."

Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego and InfoSentry Services Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., will conduct the security assessments and testing, he said.

Ohio joins Maryland in delaying its purchase of new voting equipment until it can further study security issues. The equipment is to help the states comply with the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which requires states to modernize voting equipment and improve election administration.

Maryland has asked SAIC to conduct a risk assessment of an e-voting solution manufactured by Diebold Inc. of North Canton, Ohio, before it proceeds with a planned purchase. The state's action was in response to a Johns Hopkins University study published in July that alleged Diebold's e-voting system did not meet minimal security standards. The company has refuted those claims.

Ohio issued a request for proposals in May to qualify vendors and election systems for participation in its initiative to overhaul its voting equipment. The state announced last month that five vendor teams, one of which was Diebold, had met initial requirements and were preparing to move to the next qualification round.

Sequoia was subsequently eliminated during the pre-qualification process since that announcement was made. The secretary of state's office could not be reached for further details before press time.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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