Md. elections board lacks control of data, audit finds

March 26, 2004|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

An audit of the State Board of Elections has found inadequate security and control over the agency's computer data and finances that could result in the corruption of unofficial election results and the misappropriation of funds.

The Department of Legislative Services audit was conducted from July 2000 to April last year and was released this month. It identified five trouble areas in the elections board's operations, including inadequate accounting of equipment that led the agency to exceed its budget by more than $176,000.

The state has since spent $55 million on new touch-screen electronic voting machines. The audit did not touch on any aspect of the new machines.

"This report includes conditions that we consider to be significant deficiencies in the design or operation of internal control that could adversely affect SBE's ability to maintain reliable financial records, operate effectively and efficiently," the audit states.

The legislative audit is part of a regular review of state agencies. The last legislative audit of the elections board's operations was in March 2001.

Bruce Myers, who conducted the review, said some of the findings were common among other agencies but still are considered serious. Of the 24 state agencies, 21 were found by legislative services to have had security problems with their computer systems, a report to the General Assembly said this year.

The elections board agreed with all of the auditor's findings and has taken several steps to correct the problems, such as securing the network to prevent a third party from gaining access to early election data before it is certified and requesting proposals to come up with more efficient control of the agency's inventory, officials said.

Although the auditor found that unofficial election results could be compromised because of security weaknesses, election officials maintain that official results, which are certified later, were never in jeopardy. Even so, the elections board stated that it would take steps to ensure that all results are protected against potential tampering.

The agency is aware of all the security issues, said Linda H. Lamone, elections administrator, adding, "We are implementing or have implemented everything that was recommended."

Assembly action

SLOTS: The Senate approved 41-5 a bill that would hold a straw ballot in Dorchester County during the November presidential election on whether voters support locating a slot machine facility in their county. UNBORN: The House Health and Government Operations Committee killed legislation that would confer adult status on a fetus killed as a result of an attack on the mother, but a similar measure is waiting for a vote in the House Judiciary Committee. The Senate began debate on a similar version of the measure, but delayed action. CAMPAIGNS: By a vote of 18-3, the House Ways and Means Committee approved a bill yesterday to close a loophole that permits political donors to exceed contribution limits by funneling contributions through multiple LLCs and other entities under their control. The bill passed the House last year but was defeated in a Senate committee.

Assembly on baltimoresun.com

Learn the names of your representatives and how to contact them and how to register to vote.

Read the text of proposed legislation, including the governor's slots bill, SB 197; the budget bill, SB 125; Speaker Busch's tax bill, SB 508; the Dorchester County straw vote, SB 676; and the campaign donor bill, HB 931.

Review Sun coverage of the General Assembly, and contact the writers.

www.baltimoresun.com/assembly

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