Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Court Rejects Electronic Voting Lawsuit

NY Times
September 15, 2004
Court Rejects Electronic Voting Lawsuit

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- The state's highest court on Tuesday rejected a demand that citizens who do not trust touch-screen voting machines be given the option of using a paper ballot and that Maryland be required to take additional steps to protect the security of the Nov. 2 election.

The Court of Appeals affirmed a circuit judge's ruling that state election officials have already done everything that is necessary to guard against fraud when voters use the 16,000 Diebold AccuVote-TS electronic machines in the general election.

The decision came in a two-paragraph order issued less than three hours after the judges heard arguments on a suit brought by TrueVoteMD alleging that the electronic machines, used statewide for the first time in March, are vulnerable to fraud and that the state cannot guarantee fair and accurate election results.

Linda Schade, the lead plaintiff on the lawsuit, said the decision means that ``Maryland voters are going to be forced to vote on an insecure system.''

The decision was not a surprise, Schade said. The state delayed the suit so long that ``judges found themselves challenged to find a remedy for this upcoming election that could be implemented in time.''

Schade and Ryan Phair, a lawyer for TrueVoteMD, said while it is too late to do anything about the 2004 election, TrueVoteMD will continue its legal battle to force the state to equip voting machines with printers to make a paper record of each vote cast in future elections.

A paper record would allow voters to confirm that their votes are recorded correctly and would provide a paper trial that could be used to recount votes in disputed elections.

``This is not the end of the suit,'' Schade said.

Phair acknowledged in court that it was too late to require a paper record of every vote cast on Nov. 2. But he argued that it is reasonable to ask the State Board of Elections to take additional security steps and to provide paper ballots for voters who mistrust computer voting system.

``We're basically playing Russian roulette,'' Phair said, as he described a litany of potential problems with electronic machines. ``We know there is vulnerability. It is just a matter of time until it happens.''

Judges interrupted Phair frequently with questions, pressing him for examples of election fraud involving touch-screen machines.

``Is there anything as bad as what was alleged to have happened in Florida?'' Judge Dale Cathell asked. Judge Irma Raker suggested the potential problems cited by Phair might be just ``hypothetical and speculative.''

Phair mentioned allegations of glitches with computerized systems in other states, but said it might be impossible to detect widespread fraud such as rewriting of software to skew election results.

Assistant Attorney General Michael Berman said more than 20 successful state and local elections have been held in Maryland using the Diebold machines over the past three years with no evidence of fraud or allegations of inaccurate vote counts.

``There is no sound reason to change less than two months before the election,'' Berman said.

Linda Lamone, state election laws administrator, said outside the courtroom that making any significant changes in the voting system at this late date could create chaos on election day.

Asked about the security of the Diebold machines, she said, ``I'm very confident they are accurate and secure.''


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