Md. court denies e-voting appeal

Maryland's Court of Appeals today rejected a request that the state's polling places be required to take certain security measures for touch-screen voting machines, and that voters who do not trust the machines be allowed to use a paper ballot.

The case was an appeal of a lower court's refusal to require that the state add paper record capabilities to the Diebold machines, which almost all Maryland voting precincts will use in November.

Attorney Ryan Phair, representing the plaintiffs, the advocacy group TrueVoteMD, told the court in oral arguments this morning that it is already too late to realistically ask the state to add the paper capabilities, with less than two months to go before the election. Instead, he asked that state elections officials be required to implement a list of security measures such as installing the latest software patches and developing a procedure for poll workers to determine that the voting machine software was not altered during the course of the election.

Phair said the election system should be considered critical infrastructure just as much as a power grid or a transportation system. "It's one of those things we need to make sure has the highest level of protection," he said.

Assistant Attorney General Michael Berman, arguing for the state, rejected examples Phair offered of issues that have arisen in other states.

Berman also scoffed at the suggestion that voters be allowed to use paper ballots, saying that many voters may be suspicious of both options and request yet another method.

"There is no end of choices," he said. "At some point, a decision must be made."

For now, it appears the appeals court has made the decision. The brief announcement issued just hours after the hearing affirmed the lower court's ruling, and promised that a lengthier opinion will be filed soon.

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