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Voters Take Case to Stop Electronic Voting Machines to Highest Court

By Stacy Kaper
Capital News Service
Friday, Sept. 3, 2004

ANNAPOLIS - Citizens challenging the security of the state's new touch-screen voting machines took their case to Maryland's highest court Friday, asking the Court of Appeals to overturn Wednesday's decision by Anne Arundel County Court denying their claims.

The case against the Maryland State Board of Elections includes embattled elections chief Linda H. Lamone, who was forced into mandatory leave by the elections board Friday and replaced.

The citizen activists took their case directly to the state's highest court, skipping the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, arguing time is of the essence with elections less than two months away.

A hearing has been scheduled in the case for Sept. 14.

The group of citizens petitioning say the Diebold AccuVote TS electronic voting system is not foolproof and needs to be fixed in time for the Nov. 2 election.

"The security of the voting process can be breached by hackers or others who wish to interfere with the voting process," they said in court documents.

The citizens also argue the touch-screen system should not be used in the upcoming elections without a way to create a paper record and without a paper option for voters who do not trust the touch-screen system.

The state spent more than $55 million to create the electronic system after the disputed 2000 presidential elections and sanctioned studies to review the machines' security.

The original study, released in January, found the system was vulnerable to attack by computer experts, among other security issues. The state has said the bulk of the problems have since been corrected. The author of a subsequent study disputed whether the fixes were adequate in the Anne Arundel case.

In his opinion Wednesday, Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck said the state of Maryland "has acted reasonably in setting up the system and protecting it against any reasonable risks." There have been no instances of tampering with the machines anywhere in the United States since the machines were implemented in primaries earlier this year.

The judge maintained that the state has sufficiently met, all of the reasonable security concerns raised in studies conducted by the state and in private studies.

"Maryland has done what Maryland should do for the benefit of its voters to ensure the safety, confidence, reliability and minimizing the risk of this voting system. No machine is infallible."

Although Manck conceded, "In a perfect world perhaps this should be done, and perhaps the Legislature should review same?"

Copyright 2004 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism


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