Group backing vote printouts calls for Md. elections chief's resignation

Administrator, governor are confident in system

July 13, 2004|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

A group advocating a paper audit trail to verify electronic voting in Maryland is calling for the resignation of state elections chief Linda H. Lamone.

The Campaign for Verifiable Voting in Maryland plans to present a letter to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. today asking that Lamone be replaced by "an administrator committed to election integrity and a voter-verified paper ballot audit trail," according to the group's co-founder, Linda Schade.

At the same time, the group plans to present the governor's office with petitions containing more than 10,000 signatures calling for a voting system that produces paper records, Schade said.

Schade and other advocates say that the Diebold touch-screen voting machines Maryland plans to use statewide in November's election have proved to have serious flaws. They contend that the computerized machines should be set up to produce paper records that can be verified by voters and kept for audits.

"It's a fact that these things are really subject to computer glitches," Schade said. "It's really a threat to democracy. Nobody, regardless of party affiliation, wants an uncertain election result in November."

Shareese N. DeLeaver, an Ehrlich spokeswoman, said the governor is confident in the state's touch-screen voting system.

"The state recently paid $55 million for a state-of-the-art electronic voting system," she said. "There's no reason to believe that the level of integrity Maryland voters expect and deserve cannot be achieved with this system."

Lamone said that she does not intend to step down, despite the group's call for her resignation.

She said the electronic, touch-screen voting system that the state election board chose to buy has been tested and found reliable.

"I have faith in this equipment, I have faith in people who are going to be putting on the election, and I think everything is going to be just fine," Lamone said.

She said that adapting the electronic voting system to print out paper records creates practical problems and could run afoul of state law that governs the use of voting equipment.

Lamone said Maryland law requires that the voting system be examined by an independent testing authority and shown to meet performance standards set by the Federal Election Commission .

"There are no federal standards for the printer that would produce the paper trail," she said.

In addition, Lamone said, tests that have been run on paper printers tied into the system show that they would be impractical.

"One ballot from a Baltimore County March primary took 4 1/2 minutes to print, and it's 10 feet long," she said. "That's for one voter. Multiply that by 3 million registered voters."

But Schade said other states have passed laws requiring a paper audit trail as part of their electronic voting systems to ensure the integrity of the process and Maryland should do the same

"Whether Diebold can do it or not, Maryland voters want to vote on some kind of paper because they want an accurate election result in November," Schade said.

The Maryland group's effort is part of a larger push by a national coalition that is encouraging election officials to require voting machines to produce paper records.

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