Md. at risk for vote errors, study says

STATE DIGEST

June 23, 2006

Maryland is among 17 states nationwide whose voting system is at "high risk" for compromised elections, according to a new study from political watchdog group Common Cause.

The study says the electronic voting machines used in Maryland are prone to errors and susceptible to hacking because they lack paper receipts and use malfunctioning software. It cites a widely publicized 2003 study by Johns Hopkins University computer scientist Avi Rubin as part of its evidence.

"In these states, votes will simply be lost if machines malfunction or votes are compromised due to programming errors or malicious code," the report states. "This lack of transparency and the lack of a backup system makes these machines inappropriate for use in elections unless appropriate safeguards are put in place."

The study echoes criticisms that local advocacy groups have made about Maryland's Diebold Elections Systems equipment. Diebold says the system is secure and notes that when the machines were used in 2004 in nearly every county statewide, they functioned properly.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. joined the criticism several months ago, saying that after learning of problems in other states, he had lost faith in the voting system as well as the State Board of Elections' ability to conduct fair elections.

The issue was hotly debated in the General Assembly this year, with a bipartisan group of lawmakers pushing for bill that would have required the machines to issue paper records. In one version of the proposal, Maryland would ditch its current system and rent a system known as optical scan, in which voters mark paper ballots with a pen and insert the ballots into machines to be counted. That proposal died in the Senate.

The study by Common Cause recommends that Congress require all voting systems to produce paper receipts and make money available to help states pay for the cost.

KELLY BREWINGTON

3rd District

Ehrlich voices support as Applebaum enters race

Backed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., physician Gary Applebaum formally announced his candidacy for Congress in Maryland's 3rd District yesterday.

Although several Republicans are running for the seat being vacated by Democratic U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, Applebaum has been the most aggressive in raising funds. He reported receiving $135,000 for the first quarter of this year.

"I strongly support Gary's candidacy," Ehrlich said. "He has all the qualities it takes to be a great United States congressman."

Democrats running for the seat include state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger of Baltimore County, former Baltimore health commissioner Peter L. Beilenson and John P. Sarbanes, son of U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes. The district includes parts of Baltimore City and Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

Applebaum said that, if elected, he would fight for improved health care and education reform.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Elkton

Search for missing teen expands to hometown

The search for a high school graduate who disappeared in Ocean City last week has expanded to the youth's hometown of Elkton.

Nicholas Raymond Gochnour, 18, has been missing since June 14 in Ocean City, where he was celebrating his graduation.

Three officers went to Elkton on Wednesday to gather more information, said Patrolman 1st Class Barry Neeb, spokesman for the Ocean City Police Department. "They're re-interviewing the kids he was staying with and interviewing some others they didn't get to talk to before," Neeb said.

Gochnour is about 5 feet, 8 inches tall, weighs between 140 and 150 pounds and has blond hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing a green New York Yankees hat, white T-shirt, denim shorts and white sneakers. He had diamond stud earrings in both ears.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Garrett County

Olympian named director of sports complex being built

Olympic canoeist Matthew Taylor has been named director of operations of Adventure Sports Center International, a whitewater training and outdoor sports complex under construction in Garrett County, Executive Director Brian Trusty said yesterday.

Taylor competed in the men's double canoe slalom races in the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Trusty said the center's recirculating whitewater course will open next spring atop Marsh Mountain on the shore of Deep Creek Lake.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Frederick County

Vandals destroy saplings planted by middle-schoolers

Vandals on all-terrain vehicles destroyed nearly 300 saplings planted by sixth- and seventh-grade pupils behind Windsor Knolls Middle School, the Frederick County Sheriff's Office says.

Cpl. Jennifer Bailey said 277 trees valued at $5,000 were broken, run over, uprooted or otherwise destroyed Saturday night.

The trees, planted April 21 behind the school, are part of a Schoolyard Habitat program funded by a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The project aims to reforest and improve Bennett Creek and the Monocacy Watershed.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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