February 23, 2009

State Considers Decertifying Premier Elections Solutions' Software

THE CALIFORNIA Secretary of State's office will hold a public hearing on March 17th in Sacramento to discuss withdrawing the state's certification of Premier Elections Solutions software that resulted in almost 200 ballots disappearing from Humboldt County's final November vote tally.

Evidently Premier Elections Solutions knew of the programming error in its GEMS version 1.18.19 that sometimes resulted in the first deck of ballots scanned through the vote counting machine to vanish without being reflected in the final results. The company had issued instructions on a "work around" but Humboldt County didn't follow those instructions because of staff turnover. Other counties including Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo use the same software but followed the work around instructions without incident.

The timing of the hearing presents significant challenges for Humboldt, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties because of the upcoming May 19th statewide election. Since preparations for that election will start soon, those counties must decide what type of ballots to use and what kind of counting software will be put in place for election night.

There appears to be only two options for the three "Premier" counties. Option one is to plan to use the GEMS software (seems risky) or - Option two is to craft election plans that assumes the GEMS software is decertified after the hearing and make arrangements to use a different system.

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