Volume 12, Issue 43 ~ October 21 -27, 2004
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A Test of Candidates and Electronic Voting, Too

We’re heartened by reports of record voter registration in Southern Maryland and around the country.

Never since we began paying close attention to presidential elections have we seen this kind of excitement before a presidential election or so many concerns about the direction of the country.

With so much voter interest, let’s hope that things go swimmingly when every Marylander who goes to the polls November 2 must use touch-screen machines, like them or not.

We’re in a minority here; only voters in Georgia, not known for its progressive ways, share our distinction of having no other option than touch-screen voting.

Not just the success of candidates will be tested; so will the alternately praised and accursed Diebold AccuVote-TS machines in which Maryland has vested so much of our trust (and so many taxpayer dollars).

We’d like to say we have the utmost confidence in touch-screen voting, but we’re unable to do that given the lack of a paper audit trail for old-fashioned record-keeping and validation. Even if we were petrified of fraud or manipulation, it’s much too late to do things differently.

But we do have a recommendation: We hope that voters keep close tabs on these new instruments of democracy and report to authorities (and us, if you wish) your problems or suspicions.

We think this is important because at present, there are no procedures in place or resources set aside for local polling places to document problems for later evaluation, according to TrueVoteMD.org, the group leading the effort to assure the integrity of all-electronic voting.

Later, if voters have valid reasons, we can enlist the aid of the General Assembly in returning to a system that gives us the comfort we demand while carrying out this essential act of citizenship.

Up to now, we haven’t been reassured by Linda Lamone, Maryland’s elections chief and main defender of electronic voting.

For instance, in a recent interview with the Associated Press, Lamone referred to paper trails of electronic machines as “a false sense of security.” (This country has operated fairly well for more than two centuries with humans looking at paper, not just flickering dots on a CRT screen.)

Lamone said she has no concerns about fraud, tampering, hacking or the lack of voter familiarity with an electronic system tried out in the March primary, when fewer people vote. She said the Diebold folks will be on hand to keep an eye on their product and, we assume, fix any glitches that pop up.

She also said she welcomed poll-watchers, who can help to monitor Marylanders’ experience with the new machines.

But she added in the same breath that if “there are too many poll watchers in there, it can get disruptive.” That’s not exactly an invitation for Marylanders to participate.

We hope Lamone’s confidence is well-placed. We also hope that one of her predictions comes true: that 80 percent of Marylanders vote November 2.

With many of us taking part in Maryland’s grand experiment in voting, we’re likely to reach conclusions not just on candidates but on our method of ensuring democracy at the polls.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.