The issue of electronic voting has been tabled until winter.

PORTLAND (AP) – Top state election officials wrapped up their summer meeting Monday without addressing a flap created by a study suggesting a certain computer voting system is highly vulnerable to fraud.

Computer security experts warned in a study released before the weekend meeting of more than 35 secretaries of state that there are “significant security flaws” with the system designed by Diebold Election Systems.

The company defended its system and said the survey by researchers at Johns Hopkins University was flawed. The company said 33,000 of the voting stations were used last year in elections in several states.

The study created a buzz at the National Association of Secretaries of State meeting in Portland and resolutions addressing the matter were advanced at a business meeting on Sunday. Ultimately, there was no consensus, and it was tabled until the winter meeting in February.

The issue underscored the juggling act performed by state election officials who want to make it easy to vote while preventing voter fraud.

“Secretaries of state are just as interested in getting people to vote as they are about making sure they don’t vote more than once,” noted Chip Gavin, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office in Maine.

Maine Secretary of State Dan Gwadosky, the group’s outgoing president, said some members had questions about the study and the group didn’t want to be seen as dictating election solutions adopted in states.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, the group’s new president, said the overall election system has safeguards against fraud but she said she’s confident election administrators will learn from any mistakes.

The voting software is just one piece of the overall system, and the software itself continues to improve, she added.

State election officials are in the process of drafting plans under the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which authorized $3.9 billion for states to replace outdated equipment and improve their election processes over three years.

The federal law requires states to let voters correct ballot errors, provide at least one disability-access voting machine per precinct, and allow for provisional voting, among other things.

Reps. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and Steny Hoyer, D-Md., authors of the legislation, were honored by the group on Sunday.

Some of the changes will be in place for the 2004 presidential election but others won’t take effect until 2006.

Maine, which has only 1.2 million residents, is eligible for $20 million from the federal government under the law, Gwadosky said. Some larger states will be eligible for upward of $100 million, he said.

AP-ES-07-28-03 1557EDT


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