updated 1/4/2007 6:07:25 PM ET 2007-01-04T23:07:25

A company widely used across the country to test electronic voting machines has been temporarily barred by federal officials from certifying new machines.

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Ciber Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., was told to stop testing machines after a federal assessor found the company had failed to follow proper procedures and could not show that it had conducted all the required tests, said Donetta Davidson, chair of the federal Election Assistance Commission.

Ciber was told in August by the commission to cease testing, but the order was not made public until it was reported Thursday by The New York Times.

Federal assessors “found some anomalies that they thought needed to be improved,” Davidson said. “They (Ciber) were told they could not provide any certification in our interim program until these issues were corrected.”

Ciber is one of the nation’s top three companies that test electronic voting machines, and the No. 1 tester of voting machine software.

Federal certification of testing laboratories was not required until the passage of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 in response to the disputed 2000 presidential election.

The same law also created the Election Assistance Commission, which just completed its “interim” phase of implementing a certification system for testing companies like Ciber.

Ciber is “still working to address the problems that were found during that interim assessment visit” to get back its accreditation, said Brian Hancock, a commission official.

Ciber officials didn’t return phone calls Thursday.

‘Layers of testing’
Davidson cautioned that federal testing of voting machines by labs like Ciber is just “one of three prongs” since most states and counties also conduct their own tests.

“There are a number of layers of testing,” Davidson said. “I think it’s very important voters do realize how secure the process is.”

Computer experts have criticized electronic voting machines as potentially vulnerable to hackers and software glitches that could affect election results.

Beside Ciber, two other companies, SysTest Labs of Denver and Wyle Laboratories in El Segundo, Calif., test electronic voting machines. Ciber, which has been testing the machines since 1997, checks just software. Wyle examines hardware, and SysTest can look at both.

Davidson said she expects the commission to accredit three to four additional companies to test voting machines within the next several months.

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