CA: Bowen Considers Decertifying Premier/Diebold GEMS

Update: John Gideon attempts to get a straight answer from the EAC <email exchange>

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Based on the problems discovered in Humboldt, CA, Secretary of State Deborah Bowen is considering decertifying the GEMS system.  But it’s complex and unclear exactly what decertificaiton would mean.  This is another case of being caught between the Glitches and the Gotchas, at the mercy of a broken system of certification and an oligarchy providing inadequate products.

The Eurika Times-Standard has the story <read>

Chris Riggall, a spokesman for Premier Elections Solutions, said in a previous interview with the Times-Standard that the company had known of the programming error since 2004. Saying the certification process is too lengthy and time consuming to have had the software re-certified, Riggall said Premier instead issued “work around” orders by e-mail to its customers instructing them how to take steps to avoid the problem…

The transparency project that discovered the error passes every ballot cast in an election through an optical scanner after it’s been officially counted. The ballot images are then placed online, along with open-source software, created by volunteer Mitch Trachtenberg, that allows viewers to sort the ballots by precinct and scrutinize the vote as they see fit…

But, the possible decertification of the version of GEMS currently used in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo is raising some questions there for elections officials, especially with the state calling a special election in May. Officials in both counties said they are still looking into how they would proceed if the approval of their voting systems were to be withdrawn.

Meanwhile, some in the election watchdog community are pushing for either the Secretary of State’s Office or the federal Elections Assistance Commission to pursue punitive actions against Premier, which they say knowingly kept elections systems in place that had unacceptable error rates.

Riggall said Premier has done nothing disingenuous, and notified its customers immediately upon discovering the error in its vote counting system, carefully instructing them how to “work around” the problem.

”I don’t see that there is anything — absolutely nothing — in how we have handled this issue going back several years that has been disingenuous,” Riggall said.

Meanwhile, in Connecticut we don’t use this particular function of the GEMS system to accumulate election results.  We use GEMS for a different, unrelated function.  We have our vendor, LHS Associates us GEMS to program our elections.  We use an error prone three step system of manual transcription and addition to accomplish the accumulation of vote totals which also can and has been prone to errors.

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