EPROM Chips Fed-Exed from CA Secretary of State Turn Up Missing, Package Arrives Empty, Police Investigating
UPDATE: SoS Confirms Precinct-Based Scanner Chips Missing, Will Voting Machine 'Sleepovers' Be Held Anyway?
By John Gideon on 12/19/2007, 3:31pm PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.org

Two shipping tubes sent from the California Secretary of State's office in Sacramento to the San Diego County Election Office arrived without their contents. The tubes left the SOS Office with more than 174 memory chips, or Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory (EPROM), containing firmware for the county's Diebold/Premier central-count optical scan voting machines. UPDATE: Precinct-based op-scan chips confirmed by the SoS to be missing as well! See update info at end of article.

The tubes arrived in San Diego but they were empty. The chips are now considered to be either lost or stolen.

WIRED's Kim Zetter reports today...

Two cardboard shipping tubes containing more than 174 EPROMs loaded with voting machine software were sent via Federal Express from the secretary of state's office in Sacramento last week to election officials in more than a dozen California counties that use optical-scan voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems. But two shipping tubes arrived empty to one county on Monday.

In San Diego County, one of the empty tubes arrived with no lid on the end of it to close the tube; the second tube had a lid, but it was loosely taped shut.

According to Zetter, the new firmware was being sent to San Diego following software and security modifications made following the state's recent "Top-to-Bottom Review" of e-voting systems. The packages were sent from the Secretary of State's office after being packaged by Diebold/Premier employees with SoS personnel standing witness. The Secretary of State's office confirms that Diebold/Premier regularly uses Fed-Ex as their preferred shipper.

New chips will now be sent and the state says the February primary will not be delayed by the issue. The California Highway Patrol and Sacramento Police are now investigating.

But the story gets worse, in this LATE UPDATE (FROM BRAD):

We've confirmed, via an SoS spokesperson, that some of the missing chips were to be used for precinct-based optical-scan systems as well as central-scanners as reported originally by Zetter. Which raises new concern about allowing those precinct-based systems to be released to poll-workers for "sleepovers" prior to the election, as has been the notorious and dubious custom in SD. The practice may still be allowed in next year's election, according to recent comments by the SoS Debra Bowen, though with additional security procedures in place.

Now that there are actual "official build" chips out there, somewhere, that could be used to replace the chips during a "sleepover," that issue needs to be looked at closer than ever before, as we see it.

SoS spokesperson Nicole Winger confirmed in an email to The BRAD BLOG late this afternoon:

We understand some ePROMs were for the central office and some were for precinct-based machines. Of course, as soon as Secretary Bowen learned the news from San Diego, she asked law enforcement authorities to investigate. So we hope to learn more about this soon.
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