- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 24, 2003

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland will go ahead with plans to buy $55.6 million worth of electronic voting machines, relying on a consultant’s report that numerous security problems can be fixed before the presidential primary in March.

“We remain very confident in this voting system,” Budget Secretary James “Chip” DiPaula said yesterday.

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He said Diebold Election Systems incorporated three new security features to correct problems that critics said would make the touch-screen machines vulnerable to massive election fraud.

Other “vulnerabilities” cited by the consultant, Science Application International Corp., will be corrected as state and local election boards implement security procedures, Mr. DiPaula said.

“We believe this will ensure proper and accurate [results] and a system full of integrity,” he said.

The report did not satisfy Avi Rubin, an associate professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, whose study released in July prompted national debate over the security of electronic voting systems. Mr. Rubin, lead researcher on the report, said at the time that the Diebold system was so flawed that it could be manipulated easily.

Mr. Rubin noted yesterday that the consultant’s report said the existing system “is at high risk of compromise” and that it confirmed some of the major flaws he found in the voting machines.

“I think the logical thing to do at this point is to suspend plans to use that system,” he said.

One of the major concerns is that the Diebold machines could be hacked to change election results. Mr. DiPaula said that would not be possible because the machines are not connected to each other or to the Internet.

Gilles Burger, chairman of the state election board, said the board has outlined 23 steps for election officials to take to maintain the integrity of the process.

Four of Maryland’s 23 counties used the Diebold machines in the 2002 elections, and Mr. DiPaula said no problems were reported.

The machines will be used for the other 19 counties as well in the primary election in March and the general election in November 2004.

Baltimore will be the only jurisdiction not using Diebold machines. The city had purchased a different make of touch-screen machines before state officials decided on a uniform system.

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