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Voters Challenge Changes For Voting Machines

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(credit: Frank Polich/Getty Images)

(credit: Frank Polich/Getty Images)

DENVER (AP) — A dispute is brewing over draft language to change how security is overseen for voting machines used in Colorado.

At issue is whether what Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s office is suggesting relaxes security requirements for storing and protecting the machines. A hearing on draft language is scheduled Thursday.

Gessler spokesman Rich Coolidge said the proposed changes are meant to eliminate confusion for county clerks regarding language that outlines security requirements for voting machines, not relax security requirements.

The Denver law firm that is objecting to the proposed changes successfully sued the secretary of state in 2006, when Gigi Dennis led the office. That lawsuit was over voting machine security requirements.

Attorney Paul Hultin said that what Gessler’s office is suggesting now would scale back minimum security standards put in place after the lawsuit. Among Hultin’s concerns is a proposal to eliminate a requirement that election judges report to the secretary of state when they find that a machine’s tamper-proof seal has been broken. County officials would be responsible for investigating.

Hultin contends that what Gessler’s office is considering would make the machines more vulnerable to hacking and tampering.

The voting machines in question are called direct recording electronic voting devices and are known by the acronym DRE. Colorado lawmakers passed legislation in 2009 to phase in new equipment by 2014, Coolidge said. Opponents of the electronic voting machines have raised questions about the equipment’s security and reliability over the years.

Coolidge said the proposed changes are a culmination of a year-long review in which the secretary of state’s office worked with county clerks and their staff to identify any confusion with the security guidelines. He said what they heard was that the guideless were too complex and expensive to put in place.

Coolidge said the goal is to address those concerns and also provide uniformity over how the rules are implemented but “at the same time, we want to preserve the security that’s in the law now.”

Attorney Matt Johnson called the proposal to eliminate the reporting requirement “particularly troubling,” saying that reporting to the secretary of state helps officials spot any trends that are happening statewide.

Hultin said Gessler is overstepping his legal authority, given the previous court ruling. He said he understands that some county clerks are stuck for the time being with expensive machines they invested in years ago, before the technology’s reliability came into question.

“But at a minimum, we shouldn’t be cutting back on the protections on how these machines are used,” Hultin said.

- By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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