Unified voting system for Nevada
December 10, 2003
By Geoff Dornan
Tribune News Service
CARSON CITY – Despite objections from Douglas County and Carson City clerk-treasurers, Secretary of State Dean Heller on Wednesday selected a new statewide electronic voting machine system.
Saying gaming control board experts have confirmed his fears about the security of the Diebold electronic voting machines, Heller made Sequoia his official selection. Only three of Nevada’s county clerks preferred the Diebold machines – including Douglas County’s Barbara Reed and Carson City’s Alan Glover.
And to emphasize the point that county election officials won’t be allowed to ignore the state’s mandate, he decertified the punchcard machines still used in seven Nevada counties, including Douglas and Carson City. That means those machines won’t be legal for voting next year. All 17 counties in the state will be using the same voting system in the 2004 elections.
The clerks who wanted to keep the Diebold system had concerns about the Sequioa’s cost and the amount of training that will be required for staff and the adjustment for voters.
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Sequoia is the brand Clark County has been using for nearly a decade. 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 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 changeover statewide.
“I believe it’s important for the state of Nevada that everybody on election day votes in the same manner,” he said.
Heller’s announcements opens the way to move forward, but leaves a lot of logistical questions unanswered, Glover said.
“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.”
Douglas County Clerk-Recorder Reed was unavailable for comment.
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.