By Brad Friedman on 6/8/2006, 8:54pm PT  

Given what we know about Diebold voting machines (both optical-scan and touch-screen), several folks have written to ask: "Are you sure they actually allowed poll workers to take these machines home with them" prior to the Busby/Bilbray U.S. House special election in CA-50th?

Yes. I'm sure. And yes, I confirmed it with someone in the media office at the San Diego County Registrar of Voting before I wrote my initial story on all of this. She asked me to keep her name off record, and so I'm doing so. Feel free to call and ask them yourself however: (858) 565-5800.

While you're talking to them (politely), ask how they intend to prove that the results of the Busby/Bilbray special election are accurate now that the chain of custody for the electronic voting machines --- which have been shown to be exceedingly prone to easy, passwordless tampering --- has been corrupted by sending them home for days and weeks at a time with voluneer poll workers. Also ask them how many absentee and provisional ballots there are in the race. Feel free to report your answers in comments here. If you can get any.

To help confirm the sleepovers of the easily hackable Diebold machines, here's a clip or two from a couple of emails I've received on all of this since posting my original story and this morning's follow up:

I volunteered to be a poll worker in the 49th. I took a short course on Sunday morning, loaded up the machine, and had it Sunday and all day and night Monday. I couldn't believe it! Folks, get in the polling places to watch for funny business.

Terry Olson

Enjoyed reading the Busby/Bilbray article on BradBlog and the questionable election equipment used, since I was working the election as an Assistant Precinct Inspector - Equipment. This is the person responsible for setting up and tearing down the Diebold Touch Screen Voting Stations. I understand that all but 7 CA counties will be using these systems as their main way of voting in November! I don't trust them, and the team that I trained with a week before the election didn't trust them either.

BTW, since I was trained a WEEK before the election, that means I got my two voting stations, 2 printers and cardboard privacy screen right after my training. All this equipment was sitting in my garage for nearly a week, but it was a rule that you couldn't leave the equipment at the poll site if you set up the night before. My neighbors were quite surprised when I showed them one of the touch screen systems from my garage. My Mom was also very surprised that the registrar of voters allowed us to take election equipment home with us.
...
Brian C Baer

And this from Pamela Smith, the Nationwide Coordinator for VerifiedVoting.org and Verified Voting Foundation, who's in San Diego County...

Yes, the machines had sleepovers. I was interviewed on our local news station about it prior to the election.

The procedure is that certain pollworkers are assigned equipment to take home with them upon receiving their training. They then bring it to the polling place on election morning early, and set up. Depending when they have training the machines could be at their homes for more than a week or two.
...
Best,
Pam

Pamela Smith, Nationwide Coordinator
VerifiedVoting.org and Verified Voting Foundation

UPDATE 6/9/06: I just noticed the following comment left on one of my original Busby/Bilbray article, from reader Patti Newton, who reports she had a similar experience as a San Diego County poll worker in Busby's district. Here's part of it:

I was an assistant precinct inspector in charge of equipment during this eleciton (I'm in the 50th). I had my two Diebold machines for seven full days before the election (I was dumbfounded). The chain of custody is abysmal. There is a seal on the machines (which are locked) but I am the one who sets up/breaks down the equipment and breaks the seal at the end of the day. The machines were reserved specifically for disabled voters but could have been used if a voter insisted on using it instead of the scanner. I registered zero votes and assume most if not all of the 1,646 precincts in the county had very little use but don't know for sure. I had no key to unlock the memory card but if I were motivated and had "friends" of like mind it would have been extremely easy.

The November election will use only the touchscreen machines (the scanners will not be used at all). I will encourage voters to look at the paper and make sure their votes are registered properly there but still, what's the guarantee?

I attended a breakfast with Francine and she said if the vote was close she would demand a recount. I'll follow your advice and give her office a call.

UPDATE: 6/9/06: New numbers reported from San Diego county...