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Voting Machine Opponents Report Election Day Troubles

By Joseph Bacchus
Capital News Service
Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2004

ANNAPOLIS - Crashing and freezing voting machines, oversensitive touch screens, incomplete ballots and vote tally discrepancies may have left thousands of Maryland voters disenfranchised on Election Day, according to a report released by voting machine critics Tuesday.

The report, compiled from the findings of 403 TrueVoteMD poll watchers, details 531 incidents in 108 of Maryland's 1,787 precincts - 6 percent of the state's polling places.

TrueVoteMD is a grassroots organization that opposes the Diebold touch-screen voting machines used statewide for the first time in the presidential election.

TrueVoteMD co-founder Linda Schade has said the lack of a paper record for votes makes the machines susceptible to error and fraud.

In October, TrueVoteMD asked a U.S. District Court for an injunction allowing its poll watchers within the 100-foot barrier designed to keep partisans away from voters, but the court refused.

Even if all the report's problems were addressed, Schade said, the greater problem of no paper trail to ensure accountability would still exist.

"Blind faith has no place in the voting booth," Schade said.

Maryland elections' chief Linda Lamone said a quick glance through the report led her to a very different conclusion than Schade, although she said she will comment more fully after she has time to thoroughly read the document.

"By all accounts, including theirs, it looks like we had a successful election," Lamone said. She noted that the majority of problems reported by TrueVoteMD were unrelated to the voting machines, and with an undertaking as large as a statewide election there's "nothing unusual about having a few hiccups."

Other problems reported by TrueVoteMD poll watchers include election judges ill-equipped to assist voters' problems, and registered voters turned away from incorrect precincts, rather than being given provisional ballots.

"At the end of the day, I was very disillusioned," said Liberty Rucker, a poll watcher in Prince George's County. "I felt that I lost faith in the system."

"People were not turned away - they were redirected," said Frank Bradley, an Arnold election judge who attended the news conference. Bradley said many voters showed up at the wrong precinct and were told where to go by election officials. He said many of the problems TrueVoteMD blamed on the state were better situated on the shoulders of its voters.

"Voting is a privilege, not a right," Bradley said. "With that privilege comes responsibility."

Copyright 2004 University of Maryland Philip Merrill Co llege of Journalism

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