From the Denver
Rocky Mountain News
Two state firms just hope for glitch-free election
November 1, 2004
By Roger Fillion, Rocky Mountain News
Two Colorado companies are no doubt hoping for a relatively glitch-free election Tuesday.
Ciber Inc. and SysTest Labs are among three companies nationwide authorized by state officials to test the accuracy of touch-screen voting systems that more than 45 million Americans will have the opportunity to use.
Ciber of Greenwood Village and SysTest of Denver test and "qualify" the software and related components to ensure they meet federal standards.
A third company, Wyle Laboratories, headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., performs trial runs that ensure the machines operate correctly under various conditions and environments. SysTest also is authorized to do so.
"This is looking like it's going to be one of the most closely scrutinized elections ever," said Douglas Jones, associate professor of computer science at the University of Iowa.
Carolyn Coggins, SysTest's director of ITA voting services, said successful deployment of any new voting system depends on the system itself, as well as "good procedures, good communication, good follow- up and good training."
The big touch-screen machine manufacturers are considered to be under an especially strong spotlight this year, given the debate over electronic voting.
The testing labs "have less on the line," said the University of Iowa's Jones.
Jones pointed to what he said were inadequate U.S. standards the testers must follow when testing touch-screen terminals. "They're not really at fault as much as the standards are at fault," he said.
Jones also downplayed the financial stakes for the testing companies in the election.
Ciber says its election technology-testing business accounts for less than 0.1 percent of its revenue, which totaled $692 million last year.
Voting-technology testing accounts for about 15 percent of Sys-Test's business, according to the company.
fillionr@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-2467
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