ANNAPOLIS -- A recommendation from a national bipartisan commission is putting new pressure on Maryland officials to revise the state's electronic voting machines system to provide a paper trail.
The commission led by former President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, a Republican, issued a report Monday with 87 recommendations. These include the recommendation that states should use machines that leave a paper trail as a way of increasing voter confidence in the election system.
Henry Fawell, a spokesman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said after the report was issued that the governor "is receptive to the idea of a paper trail."
"He will be appointing a commission to review Maryland election laws in the near future, and they will be giving careful consideration to this issue," Mr. Fawell said.
The Maryland State Board of Elections has contracted with two state universities to study the reliability of the state's Diebold electronic voting machines.
Elections Administrator Linda Lamone said yesterday that the University of Maryland in Baltimore County and the University of Maryland at College Park will "do a study of the voting system and whether or not any additional verification is called for and, if so, what kind."
Mrs. Lamone said the Diebold machines are reliable, provided an accurate count of statewide votes in the primary and general elections last year, and do not need a printed record of each vote.
But she said the two university studies, scheduled to be completed by late December, will be "a very useful road map to help the policy-makers decide the voting system verification issue."
Critics of the machines seized on the Carter-Baker report to press for changes in Maryland.
"It is now nearly impossible to refuse Maryland voters the paper ballot they have been calling for," said Linda Schade, director of TrueVoteMD.org. "Maryland needs to join the rest of the country and recognize that the only way to have transparent, independent vote counts is to provide a paper record that is verified by the voter."
Miss Schade said that with close races possible in the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections next year, "voters need to be sure their votes are counted accurately, and that cannot be done on the current Diebold machines."