State senators seek to broaden analysis of new voting system

November 22, 2003|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Two prominent state senators have asked to expand a review of Maryland's new electronic voting system. Among other things, they want an analysis of the system's failure to provide printable paper receipts, a feature critics of the touch-screen machines have long requested.

Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, chairman of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., head of a subcommittee on elections, asked the state Department of Legislative Services yesterday to widen its look at machines made by Diebold Election Systems.

The reliability of the machines has come under scrutiny since Johns Hopkins University and Rice University researchers reported in August that hackers could tamper with election results. Last month, Hollinger asked analysts to examine studies that critiqued the security of the Diebold terminals.

Maryland is planning to use the machines statewide in the March presidential primary, and state elections officials say that security concerns will be addressed before then.

Hollinger said she wants the legislative review to go further than first anticipated, covering "the ability of an individual voter to verify the accuracy of the vote actually cast" and the way election judges would monitor vote counts. She said constituents have told her they want a printed receipt of their vote.

In a major victory for voting rights advocates, California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley announced yesterday that all electronic voting machines in California must provide paper receipts by 2006.

Hollinger said the General Assembly probably cannot stop the installation and use of the Diebold machines, worth $55.6 million, prior to the election. And it may not need to, she said, because the machines have worked well in trial counties.

But the legislative review, she said, could help answer questions. "The only way for people to feel comfortable is to see a report," she said. The legislative review is scheduled for completion in mid-January.

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