Maryland Moving Toward Reliable Voting System
Legislature and Civic Groups United for Voter Verified Paper Ballot Legislation
SB713 filed, with 23 co-sponsors
Coalition for paper ballot increases to 23 statewide organizations
Maryland is on the verge of enacting legislation that will ensure transparent elections that voters can trust. When HB 244/SB713 becomes law Maryland will move from a state with the least secure and least transparent election system to a state with one of the most secure and transparent systems
February 7, 2006--Today, the Senate version of the ‘paper trail’ bill (SB713) was filed with 23 co-sponsors of both parties, with 24 needed for a majority vote. All members of the Senate Committee responsible for election issues support the bill. On the House side, Delegates are expressing confidence that HB244 will pass in a near unanimous vote. Civic organizations covering a wide range of interests support voter verified paper ballot legislation.
“Maryland is on the verge of enacting legislation that will ensure transparent elections that voters can trust. When HB 244/SB713 becomes law Maryland will move from a state with the least secure and least transparent election system to a state with one of the most secure and transparent systems,” said Bob Ferraro of TrueVoteMD.org.
Linda Schade of TrueVoteMD.org added “The widespread support for this bill in Maryland – inside the legislature and out – shows the state has come together in support of the basic proposition that voters should be able to trust that their votes are counted as case. We applaud Delegate Hixson and Senator Hollinger for showing leadership on this issue.”
The list of statewide organizations supporting paper ballot legislation has grown considerably this year, with 25 major statewide groups as follows in favor of paper ballot legislation:
American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland
American Council of the Blind of Maryland (ACBM)
Anne Arundel Peace Action
Baltimore Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance
Common Cause Maryland
Democracy for Maryland
League of Women Voters of Maryland
Maryland Area Guide Dog Users, Inc.
Maryland Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities
Maryland Christians for Justice and Peace
Maryland Green Party
Maryland National Organization of Women (NOW)
Maryland Public Interest Research Group (MaryPIRG)
Maryland Populist Party
Montgomery County Progressive Alliance
NAACP – all Maryland branches and chapters
Prince George’s County Civic Federation
Progressive Democrats of America – Maryland chapter
Republican Women of Anne Arundel County
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Maryland and DC State Council
Sierra Club – Maryland chapter
Southern Maryland Council of the Blind, and
Thank you for your support on HB244 - the Voter-Verified Paper Record bill.
After more than two hours of testimony for HB244 in last week's Ways and Mean hearing, a number of individuals, particularly State Election Administrator Linda Lamone testified against HB244. TrueVoteMD offers the following documented corrections to a number of inaccuracies in opponent testimony. Please feel free to contact the TrueVote office for any clarifications at 301-270-6150.
Corrections to Testimony of Opponents of HB244
To augment information provided for the February 1, 2006 Ways and Means hearing on HB244, TrueVoteMD offers the following documented corrections to a number of inaccuracies in opponent testimony.
- Significant Understatement of Costs of Current Diebold Voting System:
The State Board of Elections (SBE) testified that the operating budget for the current Diebold system is ‘under one million dollars a year’. TrueVoteMD has attached correspondence from the Department of Budget & Management, which clearly states that annual operations and maintenance costs for the Diebold system $5 million in 2005 and $9 million in 2006. It also shows lease payments for the Diebold system at $9 million in 2005 and nearly $6 million in 2006.
Recommendation: The State and legislators should consider a full audit of the SBE’s budget and expenditures so an independent evaluation of the system costs can be made.
- Inflated Fiscal Note Costs and the claim that TrueVoteMD did not account for devices for the disabled in our cost estimates:
Ms. Lamone testified that an op-scan system would cost $55 million. Our estimate - $24 million - is based on what other states have paid for optical scanners and accessible ballot-marking devices—approximately $5,000 per machine. TrueVote’s cost charts do, in fact, include ballot-marking devices for the disabled in the same quantity the state currently provides: one per polling place. While we have no objection to providing two accessible machines per polling place, as the fiscal note stipulates, legislators should be aware that this doubles our current accessibility standard for no apparent reason except to inflate the fiscal note. Please see our cost comparison charts and a more detailed commentary on this year’s fiscal note.
Recommendation: Revise fiscal note with improved data to more accurately reflect costs.
- Maryland Diebold Machines Vulnerable to Recent Hacking Test in Leon County, FL:
Contrary to the claims of Administrator Lamone (and Diebold), Leon County Elections Administrator Ion Sancho confirmed by phone that he did not give passwords to computer expert Harri Hursti. Hursti penetrated the security of the Diebold system by using a simple memory card to change the mock election result. This manipulation could occur at any point where someone could substitute a fraudulently programmed card for the real one without detection.
This applies to all Diebold machines in Maryland because:
- We use the same optical scan machines as the one used in the test to count our Absentee and Provisional Ballots.
- In a January 5, 2006 letter to the State of Pennsylvania, Diebold confirmed that the federally banned ABasic “interpreted” code exists on all memory cards in Diebold systems including the AccuVote TS used in Maryland.
Recommendation: This newly revealed vulnerability is such a serious threat that it must be addressed immediately. It suggests that, at a minimum, our Diebold equipment should be required to go through re-certification, as has been recommended by several officials including the chair of the Security subcommittee of the Technical Guidelines Development Committee of the federal Elections Assistance Commission. Once federal officials confirm that Diebold’s systems violate the federal standards, the State of Maryland is in an excellent position to escape the Diebold contract, and also possibly recover lost expenses. We recommend that this avenue be pursued by the State’s Attorney General. Maryland law requires the use of voting system which comply with federal standards, therefore the Diebold system currently appears to out of compliance with law.
- AutoMark Certified by Lamone’s NASED organization: The fiscal note for HB 244 states, “SBE advises that using optical scan machines may require the State to also invest in an AutoMark voting system which is designed to work in conjunction with op-scan systems to provide access to voters with disabilities. The Automark is a relatively new product and SBE is unsure whether it meets federal voting system guidelines.” In fact, the AutoMark device was certified by NASED – of which Lamone is President - last year to current (2002) federal standards, while Maryland’s touch-screen machines were certified only to 1990 federal standards (though now Diebold is out of compliance even with 1990 standards).
- ‘Re-Training’ Difficulty Overstated for Op-scan Implementation:
Since optical scanners were used for several decades in 19 of Maryland’s 24 counties until March of 2004, it may be unreasonable to argue, as Administrator Lamone did, that ‘re-training’ elections workers for this voting system would be difficult. Most county BOEs and their election judges are familiar with op-scan systems; indeed many election judges dropped out due to the complicated Diebold system. New election judge training and materials will need to be produced this year anyway because of other changes to election procedures such as early voting.
Recommendation: HB244 does not mandate a specific technology. However, if Maryland wants a cost effective, transparent, recountable, secure voting system, optical scan is our recommendation. Last year Administrator Lamone argued that we shouldn’t be hasty about locking ourselves into a paper trail when other viable verification options exist. One year later, at the completion of the SBE’s studies which excluded op-scan, we have learned that none of the options studied are viable.
- Exaggerated Time Required for Audits:
Ms. Lamone claimed that audits would require 4-8 weeks. We have canvassed several states from among the 33 that have verifiable voting in place. Washington State did a hand recount of their razor close 2004 gubernatorial race. That state – which is typical - says most counties do a full recount in one day but their largest county might take four days. Reliable audits are the only way to ensure that our election results are trustworthy. We are uncertain why the SBE would argue against audits. Other states report that hand audits of paper ballots are relatively inexpensive. According to North Carolina estimates, we can estimate audit costs to be between $10,000- $27,000.
Recommendation: The SBE may want to consult other states for tested audit procedures.
- The claim that touch screens can produce a paper record of all votes if needed for a recount:
This paper record is not voter-verified, so, there is no way to know if these ballots are an accurate record of a voter’s intent. If there is tampering or if hard or software makes a mistake in recording the vote, it simply repeats the error on that unverified ballot printed from the same computer record. The point of a voter verified record is to have a document that clearly shows the original intent of the voter to be used for audits and meaningful recounts. In the November 2005 Virginia Attorney General’s race, the Virginia courts ruled recounts were impossible because many counties lacked an independent recountable record of the votes.
- The claim that there is no secure way to store paper:
As professional accountant Delegate Barve argued, many businesses, banks, and state agencies use paper backups routinely. Further, secure procedures for storing paper ballots have been in place for decades and a cooperative elections agency could likely improve them. We believe that our elections administrators can safeguard paper ballots. If they cannot store paper securely, why should they be any more capable of safe-guarding electronic systems, which are far more complex and susceptible to corruption, data loss, and fraud?
- Dr. Alan Sherman's claim that we shouldn't be hasty about locking into paper when other technologies may offer more security in the future:
Dr. Aviel Rubin addressed this well in his response to Delegate Cardin's question: If and when such technologies become available and are fully tested and proven, we can reconsider changing the law at that time. Dr. Rubin estimated that such technology is at least a decade away from being viable. But no such technologies are currently on the market, and we need verifiable elections now. It is not reasonable to say it will take years to put paper ballots in place, but that new yet undeveloped technology is just around the corner. National experts including Dr. Rubin consistently say that a paper-based verification system is the best and only method available now.
- Concern of county officials about financial impact:
Precinct-based optical scan voting systems would save the counties and state money over the short and long term—please see our yearly cost comparison chart. The touch-screen machines we currently use are the most expensive way possible to vote, as well as the least secure.
Recommendation: Consider op-scan system and pursue contract re-negotiation with Diebold.
- Ms. Dacek’s dismissal of voting integrity activists as being “a group, mainly located in Montgomery County, insisting on a paper trail”:
TrueVoteMD is part of a coalition of over twenty major state organizations, including the MD Council of the Blind, Sierra Club, MaryPIRG, the NAACP, CommonCause, MD NOW, ACLU-MD, and others, that have made verifiable voting a priority. TrueVoteMD itself has a membership of thousands in every county in the state. A recent Zogby poll in Pennsylvania showed that 85% of voters want paper ballots. This closely matches TrueVoteMD’s findings from door-to-door canvassing in Montgomery County. The National Democratic Party has recognized the problems with electronic voting and recommended paper trails as the solution, as has the bipartisan Carter-Baker election reform commission.
- Administrator Lamone’s claim that some of TrueVoteMD's information is inaccurate:
The ‘inaccuracy’ Lamone referred to is an original document produced by the Montgomery County Board of Elections, so her argument about its accuracy is with them. We make every effort possible to verify the information we post, and to cite our sources. Please help us correct any errors we may have inadvertently posted on our web site: www.TrueVoteMD.org.
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This story was published on February 13, 2006.