Judge Denies Diebold Request To Stop State ES&S Purchase

Vendor contends Massachusetts erred in choice of e-voting machines

A Massachusetts state judge last week denied a request from Diebold Election Systems to suspend the state’s purchase of electronic voting machines from Election Systems & Software Inc.

Allen, Texas-based Diebold had filed a lawsuit against the commonwealth of Massachusetts on March 15 looking to invalidate the state’s $9 million contract to buy handicapped-accessible AutoMark voting machines made by ES&S.

The lawsuit was filed because the company contends that it meets the contract requirements by offering “the best product and service at the most competitive price,” said a Diebold spokesman.

Diebold’s request for an injunction to block the execution of the contract with Omaha-based ES&S was rejected in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, said a spokesman for Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin.

Zero for Three

The judge also denied Diebold’s request to prevent the state’s legal team from viewing internal Diebold documents in connection with the case, the spokesman said.

Diebold claims its e-voting machines are superior to ES&S's.

Diebold claims its e-voting machines are superior to ES&S's.“The suit is still there, but they went zero for three yesterday,” Galvin’s spokesman said, adding that no further hearings have been scheduled.

The spokesman called the Diebold lawsuit “frivolous.” He said Galvin’s office followed a proper process that included field testing of potential machines, including those from Diebold, during actual elections last year.

In announcing the selection of the AutoMark machines on March 5, Galvin stated, “After extensive testing and analysis for security, I have determined that the AutoMark terminal is the one that will best enable voters with disabilities to cast their ballots without the assistance of another person.”

Galvin’s spokesman said the devices would bring Massachusetts into compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, which requires each voting district to use at least one handicapped- accessible machine.

The machines will be installed in Boston precincts by November 2007 and throughout the state in time for the 2008 presidential election, the spokesman said.

In a statement, Diebold President Dave Byrd said that the company “has confidence that the state’s goal is to purchase the best voting machines for the lowest price possible.”

He noted that more than 200 voting districts in the state currently use various Diebold machines.

The company “is confident that it has offered the electorate of Massachusetts, including blind and physically challenged voters, the best election solutions and services at the most competitive price,” Byrd said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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