March 23, 2006 - 12:04pm ET
Diebold, dubbed an "e-voting recidivist " by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, may soon be blocked from operating their voting machines in Maryland. Two weeks ago, the Maryland House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to <!--StartFragment --> require paper ballots—not electronic voting machines—be used in this year's elections. The Maryland Senate will consider the measure any day now.
Even Maryland's very Republican governor, Robert Erhlich, has publicly expressed his concern about the integrity of Diebold's e-voting technology. As he should. Today, in an editorial, The New York Times urges the Maryland Senate to support the bill. The Times described why opposition is growing in Maryland to Diebold's technology:
<!--StartFragment -->Maryland was one of the first states to embrace Diebold. But Maryland voters and elected officials have grown increasingly disenchanted as evidence has mounted that the machines cannot be trusted. In 2004, security experts from RABA Technologies told the state legislature that they had been able to hack into the machines in a way that would make it possible to steal an election. Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat, informed the State Board of Elections in 2004 that voters had complained to her that machines had mysteriously omitted the Senate race.
Last week, Kevin Zeese—founder of the nation's leading citizen groups working to end paperless electronic voting—explained why Maryland's move is significant to the rest of the country:
<!--StartFragment -->Maryland is of national interest because [Maryland State Election Administrator Linda] Lamone is the President of the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) and the most vociferous advocate for paperless voting in the United States. John Gideon Information Manager of VoteTrustUSA.org says “NASED presently controls all federal voting systems qualifications. They control the panel that reviews the testing results from the Independent Test Authorities and because of that they control who gets qualified and who doesn't.” Indeed, unless Maryland passes legislation immediately, it will be the only state to use a statewide paperless Diebold system as Georgia, the other statewide paperless state, has announced it is changing its system.
Writing for TomPaine.com recently, e-voting expert David Dill argued that requiring paper records is one of the best immediate fixes to the nation's voting problems:
<!--StartFragment -->Right now, the only feasible solution to the insecurity of electronic voting is a universal requirement for voter-verified paper records of all ballots (VVPR). We also need to pass laws that enable candidates to obtain manual recounts easily and inexpensively. There is now a national movement to make sure this technology is used, and it’s winning, slowly but surely.
Maryland's likely conversion is a sign that the momentum is building. But paper ballots are not without problems. Today's reports out of Illinois show that its system of electronic voting machines and paper ballots caused numerous election-day glitches in Cook County.* As I understand it, Cook County has in place the very system Maryland is moving toward and which is widely supported by election reform advocates. Cook County's problems are understandably arousingsuspicion. They also serve as a reminder that to restore people's trust in the complexity of America's electoral process, election reform must be comprehensive. A paper trail is important, but so, too, is moving forward on other major reforms. Dill outlined four aspects of the election process that require major changes:
<!--StartFragment -->I propose a four part solution: We need to ensure that voting technology is transparent; election procedures need to be rethought to emphasize openness, security and checks and balances; election laws need to be revised to support these points and to make it easy for candidates to get reliable, manual recounts; finally, citizens need to participate in witnessing elections and making sure they are conducted properly.
E-voting was an attempt to fix the "hanging chads" that plagued us in 2000. Paper trails provide a remedy for the widely distrusted and insecure e-voting systems in use in 2004. But improving this essential element of American democracy means doing more than merely responding to the last election's problems.
UPDATE: The original version of this blog indicated that Cook County election officials were conducting a recount. They are not.
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