Colo. Judge Grudgingly Approves Machine Vote

By Colleen Slevin
Associated Press
Saturday, September 23, 2006

DENVER, Sept. 22 -- A judge on Friday chastised state officials for botching efforts to ensure that electronic voting machines are tamper-proof, but he cleared them for use in the November election, saying it is too late now to change course.

Denver County District Judge Lawrence A. Manzanares said the secretary of state's office had violated state law by failing to come up with minimum security standards for the machines. He added that the office had done an "abysmal" job documenting which tests were performed on the machines and should not have allowed computer manufacturers to vouch for the security of their own products.

The judge said, however, that he would not bar the machines with the election just six weeks away and county clerks warning that they might not have time to print enough paper ballots.

Many of the machines will be used in Colorado's most populous counties during the general election Nov. 7. A lawsuit filed by 13 voters claimed the machines were not secure, suggesting the accuracy of election results could be in jeopardy.

Manzanares said the secretary of state's office must issue new security guidelines after the election.

For November, he ordered the state to work with counties to make sure the machines are kept under close watch.

After the hearing, attorneys for both sides met behind closed doors to talk about possible solutions.

"I want to assure the voters that the machines are safe, their votes are secure, that they need to feel confident about their vote, and I encourage them to vote in November," Secretary of State Gigi Dennis said.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the machines can be easily manipulated to switch people's votes, that state officials didn't take adequate steps to test or secure the machines, and that the state was under pressure from county clerks to approve the machines quickly. They also argued that they are not easily accessible to voters with disabilities.

Lawyers for the secretary of state's office said the machines have been approved by independent laboratories endorsed by the government and were reviewed according to state law.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company