- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2007

ANNAPOLIS (AP) Maryland’s elections administrator is being criticized for allowing her image to be used in promotional material for touch-screen voting technology.

“Our election judges just love this product, and so do I,” elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone said in a brochure for Diebold Election Systems‘ ExpressPoll-5000, which debuted in Maryland in the September primary. “We in Maryland are extremely pleased with the performance of the system during the general election.”

Mrs. Lamone says she was not paid for the endorsement and that she has essentially said the same to the press, the General Assembly and in official releases.

But voting-rights advocates said they will file a complaint with the State Ethics Commission, charging a possible conflict of interest because Mrs. Lamone led Maryland’s efforts to purchase touch-screen machines from Diebold.

“What concerns us is a too-cozy relationship between the administrator and the vendor,” said Robert Ferraro of SAVEourVote. “She’s been pushing these Diebold machines all over the country. It’s not proper.”

A spokesman for Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, also questioned the propriety of a state official helping promote a product.

“On its surface, this raises concern about lending the prestige of office to a private company, O’Malley spokesman Steve Kearney told the Baltimore Sun. “We agree that the ethics commission should review the matter, and we have asked the elections administrator to have Diebold withdraw these materials.”

The poll books, produced by the Texas-based company, allow election workers to verify voter eligibility through the state voter-registration database.

Despite Mrs. Lamone’s advocacy of the system, it crashed repeatedly during the primary, requiring time-consuming rebooting. The problems were fixed for the November general election.

“I don’t see it as being much different from responding to a question on how the system performed” in November, Mrs. Lamone said.

Maryland code states “an official or employee may not intentionally use the prestige of office or public position for that official’s or employee’s private gain or that of another.”

A spokesman for the ethics commission declined to comment on the complaint.