While California officials have rejected Diebold's electronic voting machines as too unreliable, Utah officials say they will stand by their $27 million decision to use the machines.
After a mock election last week, California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson told the Oakland Tribune the voting machines had about a 10 percent failure rate.
"That's not good enough for the voters of California, and that's not good enough for me," he said.
McPherson said the machines' printers jammed and screens froze too often to be reliable in an actual election, but a Diebold spokesman has said the company will fix the problems.
Kathy Dopp, president of the nonprofit groups Utah Count Votes and U.S. Count Votes, has spoken out against the Diebold machines from the beginning, and said she hoped the California test would change the mind of officials in Utah.
"Not only will they be hugely expensive, but there are already lots of elections where election officials made errors and counted punch cards wrong on the first try," she said Saturday. "Now we're getting a system that doesn't have any easy way to track the paper trail.
"It was sort of a no-brainer not to purchase these machines."
But state officials remain unmoved by the California experience.
"We're confident that we're going to have an accurate system in the state of Utah," said Michael Cragun, director of Utah's elections division. "The lieutenant governor has made his choice to use the Diebold machines, and we plan to continue pursuing that."
The machines are expected to be ready for primary elections in June 2006.
Dopp said she would prefer Utah officials opt for the AutoMark voting machine, which she says has been proven to be more reliable.
She said the AutoMark would cost the state less money and would still comply with requirements of the Help America Vote Act, which was aimed at establishing more accurate vote-counting methods
following the Florida election controversy in 2000.
Negotiations surrounding Diebold's Utah contract are still under way, but according to reports, the state would purchase about 7,500 machines for $3,150 each.
The Diebold machines will have touch screens and audio prompts, which would assist blind voters. Officials have said the machines will eliminate voting errors and produce quicker results, but Dopp said the machines will only create more problems."The state of Utah could not have selected a worse voting machine," she said.
Contributing: Associated Press E-mail: [email protected]
E-mail: [email protected]