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E-voting smooth on Super Tuesday

Only isolated problems have been reported in the day's elections, in which delegates from nine states including New York, California, Massachusetts and Ohio were up for grabs.

Electronic voting's first big test came Tuesday, as voters used computerized voting machines instead of paper ballots and punch cards to help choose who will be the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

Only isolated problems were reported in the day's elections, in which delegates from nine states including New York, California, Massachusetts and Ohio were up for grabs.

A representative for the elections division of the California secretary of state's office said some glitches arose in San Diego, which used touch screen voting machines for the first time. The government blamed the problems, which prevented less than 20 percent of the machines from booting up properly, on power fluctuations and human error.

Diebold spokesman David Bear acknowledged that the problems affected his company's new AccuVote TSx machines, but said that "they amounted to delays in some areas. It hasn't affected people's ability to vote." Because of low batteries, machines in San Diego and Oakland booted into a different screen that confused some precinct workers, Bear said.

Other states said voting was expected to conclude without any serious problems.

"We had no equipment failures at all," Linda Lamone, , said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. "We have everything in place to know almost immediately whether something's happening."

All but one of Maryland's 24 counties use Diebold machines, which were first tested in the 2002 gubernatorial election. After some Diebold source code leaked to the Internet, a group of computer scientists including Maryland resident Avi Rubin analyzed the software and concluded in a report last year that it falls "far below even the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts."

Lamone said she was not concerned about security breaches. "I believe that our processes and procedures mitigate any of the risks that have been identified," she said. "Plus Diebold has reprogrammed or met the security requirements that were identified. The voters absolutely love it. Security is a big issue for us, but you've got to weigh that against the advantage that electronic voting gives."

In response to concerns about the Diebold machines, the Maryland elections board said in a letter last September that "an alternative system could not be implemented in time to conduct the March 2004 presidential primary election and could jeopardize the November 2004 presidential general election."

Diebold's Bear said Tuesday that "electronic voting has broken down some barriers that have disenfranchised many more voters than the issues of security. These issues have in the past disenfranchsed many more voters than the issue of security." As examples, Bear listed an audio ballot option available for the blind, translations for non-English speakers, and larger font sizes for the visually impaired.

Ohio also reported no problems. Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for the Ohio secretary of state, said that six of 88 counties use electronic voting machines.

"In those six counties, we've had no reports of any difficulties," LoParo said. "Everything seems to have run very smoothly. You typically find out right away (if there are glitches). You find out whether a machine hasn't been working or there are power failures. You find that out during the course of the day. In calculation errors, which we haven't seen with electronic voting devices, you probably won't find out until the results are posted."

State governments are racing to install electronic voting machines as a result of the federal , which was enacted after the 2000 Florida election debacle and gives states millions of dollars if they meet certain deadlines.

As part of Ohio's transition, the state hired two private contractors, Compuware Corporation and InfoSentry, to review the security procedures of Diebold's AccuVote-TS, Election Systems and Software's iVotronic, Hart InterCivic's eSlate 3000, and Sequoia Voting Systems' AVC Edge. The twin reports, released in December, sounded an ominous warning, with one concluding that "Compuware identified several significant security issues, which left unmitigated would provide an opportunity for an attacker to disrupt the election process or throw the election results into question." Ohio responded by ordering the manufacturers to fix the problems.

"We're pretty confident that the machines we have in use in Ohio today have operated as intended and the election has run smoothly," Ohio's LoParo said. "But you never say never, and we'll know for sure in a couple days."