Between The Lines

BETWEEN THE LINES

March 22, 2004

Striving for accuracy

That full-page ad last week in The Sun that urged the public to call Baltimore County Sen. Paula C. Hollinger and recommend passage of legislation to upgrade Maryland's new electronic voting machines certainly was eye-catching.

Placed by Takoma Park-based TrueVoteMD.org and TrueMajority, an advocacy group created by a founder of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, it showed a corrupt Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine baring Dracula-like fangs with the words "System Error! Vote Data Lost" on its screen.

"Don't let the computer eat your vote on November 4th!" the ad said, after recounting incidents in which electronic voting machines reportedly botched election results. But Sun readers were quick to call and point out that to err is also human: This year's general election is Nov. 2.

The mistake - repeated twice - did not go unnoticed by Linda H. Lamone, the state's elections administrator, who has repeatedly heard criticism from TrueVoteMD.org about the performance of the Diebold machines. The state bought 16,000 of them for $55 million.

"Maybe they'll show up on Nov. 4," Lamone said of TrueVoteMD.org.

The ad called for Maryland to add printers so voters could verify their vote before leaving the polling place.

- Johnathon E. Briggs

Luck of the Irish

The former mayor of North Tipperary County in Ireland was visiting Mayor Martin O'Malley on March 12. The Celtic ex-mayor, Jim Casey, gave Baltimore's Irish-American mayor a gift of fresh shamrocks that O'Malley stored in a refrigerator in City Hall.

Two days later, it appeared the search for three missing passengers from the capsized Seaport Taxi had run out of luck when sonar failed to detect new targets. The three people had been swept away in the harbor tragedy March 6.

Fire Department Chief William J. Goodwin Jr. was ready to call it quits when suddenly a call alerted him that two new images had been pinpointed in the waters off Fort McHenry.

O'Malley arrived the morning of March 14 and figured Goodwin and his divers needed all the luck they could get. Goodwin had already set up his statue of St. Jude, patron of hopeless causes, in his makeshift office inside the fire boat station at Fort McHenry. O'Malley lent the aura of St. Patrick to the cause by giving Goodwin the shamrocks.

O'Malley said Goodwin stored them in his pocket.

That afternoon, divers recovered two missing passengers. The next day they found the last.

-Doug Donovan

My pal, George

Flipping through his mail before the County Council meeting last Monday night, Councilman Kevin Kamenetz stumbled across an unusual accolade - an autographed picture from President Bush and his wife, Laura.

The president and first lady, it seems, wanted to thank Kamenetz, a Democrat from solidly liberal Pikesville, for his service as a grass-roots leader and to note that it takes the efforts of people like him to build a successful campaign.

Kamenetz said he'll get the photo framed, but whether a copy goes out with the next fund-raising letter may take a little more thought.

- Andrew A. Green

City's shattered image

Postcards flittered in the driver-side window jams of nearly every car parked under the Jones Falls Expressway on Wednesday.

At first glance, the postcards looked like any other annoying advertisement, but these handouts were promoting safety. The front featured the slack-jawed face of a shocked man staring through a shattered window.

The back featured two slogans: "The next time you leave your car, Leave it empty," and "Street Smarts - Don't learn the hard way."

The card described how to protect cell phones left in cars. "Leaving your car's cigarette lighter out of its socket is a sure sign you have a cellular phone. Cell phones account for more than 60 percent of all car break ins. So put your lighter back in its socket!" The postcard, sponsored by the Downtown Partnership and the Baltimore city and county police departments, also warned drivers that it takes 10 seconds for a thief "to take anything you've left sitting in your car and leave you with lots of broken glass."

Like Mick Jagger sings in the Rolling Stones' song "Shattered:" "To live in this town, you must be tough, tough, tough, tough, tough."

-Doug Donovan

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