Md. judge rejects paper requirement

A Maryland county judge has ruled that state officials do not have to add paper trails to the state's electronic voting machines before the November election.

Linda Schade, co-founder of and lead plaintiff in the suit, said the organization will appeal. However, she said it is uncertain if anything can be done in time to change the upcoming presidential election.

"The stalling on the part of the state of Maryland is not helping democracy or Maryland's voters," she said. "It is possible the appellate court could take quick action to have voters vote on paper ballots."

The original suit cited security risks of using the touch-screen machines, made by Diebold Inc.'s Diebold Election Systems, and asked the court to either require the state to add printers to the machines to generate a voter-verified paper record of each vote or to allow voters to use paper ballots read by optical scan machines.

Critics of touch-screen voting have long advocated the use of a paper record. Voters could see the paper and verify that it accurately reflected their vote. The papers would be stored securely by the state's election officials and could be used to conduct a hand recount or a spot audit if questions arose about the machines' accuracy.

"Anybody who knows anything about computers does not want to vote on these machines," Schade said.

Linda Lamone, Maryland's election supervisor and an advocate of the touch-screen machines, could not be reached for comment.

Earlier this week, Florida voters chose Senate candidates in a statewide primary election, many of them using electronic machines. Fifteen of Florida's 67 counties have the machines, made by several different manufacturers.

State officials said the election went smoothly.

"We had an extremely successful primary statewide," said Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman in Secretary of State Glenda Hood's office.

In Miami-Dade County, almost 300,000 people in 749 precincts used the machines without apparent incident, said Seth Kaplan, executive assistant to the supervisor of elections.

"Certainly a lot of work went into" preparing for the vote, he said.

"This election was an important opportunity to put to rest the unreasonable suspicion directed at these machines in recent months, and we consider it a success," said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America. "This election stands in stark contrast to the presidential election of 2000, which opened the 21st century with a grueling manual recount of ruined punched card ballots befitting the 1950s."

Some computer scientists, however, worry that e-voting machines could produce counts that are inaccurate enough to alter the result of a race but small enough to go undetected.

"That worries me more, because it may be a silent problem we don't know about," said Rebecca Mercuri, a Radcliffe Institute Fellow at Harvard University.


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