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Official: Ohio Won't Make 2004 Deadline for Electronic Voting

The state's top elections official said Tuesday that security problems found in new touch-screen voting systems (searchmean they won't be in place statewide in time for the November 2004 presidential election.

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell said some of the new voting machines would be installed in August, some in November and the rest in 2005.

That means some of Ohio's 69 counties will still be using punch-card systems (searchfor the 2004 election. Problems with punch cards in Florida left the outcome of the 2000 presidential race in doubt for more than a month.

The four electronic touch-screen systems must be proven secure before Ohio voters use them, Blackwell said. His office will work with the manufacturers to ensure the problems are corrected, he said.

Ohio and much of the rest of the nation are upgrading voting equipment under legislation passed by Congress after the 2000 election.

The state must ask the Federal Elections Commission (searchfor an extension in complying with the law, Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo said.

Companies that tested the security systems of the four machine types found software that permits votes to be counted more than once, and a risk that unauthorized poll workers or others could gain access to the system.

Identical passwords were discovered for more than one poll worker, while voting booth cases did not provide for locks, leaving a risk of tampering during transportation of ballots.

Each of the voting systems provided by the four vendors -- Diebold Election Systems (search), Sequoia Voting Systems, Election Systems & Software and Maximus/Hart Intercivic/DFM Associates -- has multiple but not identical problems, Blackwell said.

Mark Radke, a Diebold executive, said the company had already fixed problems in machines used in municipal elections in Maryland.

"These software enhancements will be implemented in all touch screen units deployed within Ohio and the process-related questions are addressed in the Diebold Election Systems training manuals," Radke said.