Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Maryland official reverses stance on e-voting bill

Maryland official reverses stance on e-voting bill
Todd Weiss

December 08, 2006 (Computerworld) Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said he plans to support a bill requiring that e-voting machines provide a paper trail, just months after opposing a similar measure.

Miller said he had opposed legislation filed earlier this year to require a paper trail of electronic votes because the bill was filed too close to last month's general election.

The senator said he had feared that local officials wouldn't have enough time to meet the requirements of the bill. With the next major election two years away, those officials should have plenty of time to ensure that e-voting machines provide a paper trail if such a law were enacted next year, he said.

"This is a concern about the future," Miller said. "We haven't had problems [with e-voting] in Maryland. Our optical machines have worked fine." He contended that problems in recent elections can be traced to human error.

For example, apparent human error was cited in September when some 12,000 Maryland voters were forced to use makeshift provisional ballots when they couldn't access e-voting machines during primary elections. At the time, officials said that cards required for access to the machines weren't shipped to 238 precincts in Montgomery County.

A law requiring a paper record of every vote cast would ensure the integrity of the election process, Miller said. "We want to make sure that every vote is counted and secure and that there is a paper trail," he added.

Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for Martin O'Malley, who will be sworn in as governor of Maryland on Jan. 17, said O'Malley has been reviewing e-voting issues with officials of the outgoing administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Abbruzzese said a workgroup has been charged with looking at election issues during the transition. "Their job is to come up with some recommendations for the governor-elect and the lieutenant governor-elect," Abbruzzese said.

Through a spokesman, Linda Lamone, administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections, declined to comment on plans to revive the effort to require an e-voting paper trail.

Lillie Coney, coordinator for the National Committee for Voting Integrity, a project of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called voter-verifiable paper trails "the most secure way to audit an election and the most secure way to recover from [voting machine] failures."

"Maryland has been trying since 2002 to get it right with their voting systems," Coney said. "This is good news because that's where we are with the technology."