- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s electronic voting system remains “terribly vulnerable” to fraud, despite steps taken by the state to correct security flaws, a consultant who conducted a study of the system last January testified yesterday.

Michael Wertheimer of RABA Technologies said his review of the latest report by the State Board of Elections on what it is doing to protect the integrity of the November election “leads me to the opinion this system still would receive a failing grade.”

Mr. Wertheimer was a key witness on the opening day of a hearing in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in a suit filed by TrueVoteMD seeking to force the state to take further steps to assure that there will be an accurate counting of votes in the presidential election.

RABA Technologies was hired by the state legislature in January to evaluate the Diebold Election Systems machines after two other reports said that they were riddled with potential security flaws.

That study, headed by Mr. Wertheimer, found that the system had many vulnerabilities that could be exploited by people trying to influence the outcome of an election. But he told legislative committees at the time that he believed that the problems could be fixed.

State election officials have maintained that they have instituted steps to deal with the flaws outlined in the reports and guarantee the integrity of the November election.

Assistant Attorney General Michael Berman said the potential problems cited by TrueVoteMD are based on “theoretical security vulnerabilities” that have not materialized in previous elections, including the March primary. Mr. Berman also told Judge Joseph P. Manck that opponents filed their lawsuit too late and there is no time to make major changes before the general election.

“The greatest threat to a secure election is an 11th-hour change,” he said.

Mr. Wertheimer did not specify which problems remain or what should be done to rectify those problems. Kathryn DeBord, a lawyer for TrueVoteMD, said recommendations on how the system can be improved for the November election would be presented to Judge Manck today.

TrueVoteMD lawyers acknowledged in court yesterday that it is too late to equip all 16,000 Diebold touch-screen machines with equipment to provide a paper copy of each ballot before the election. They also agreed that it would not be feasible to use optical-scan paper ballots in all precincts.

They will press for a verifiable paper trail for future elections. In the meantime, they will ask the judge to order election officials to implement additional security measures before the general election and also make paper ballots available for voters who do not want to use the Diebold machines.

Maryland and Georgia are the two states that use touch-screen machines in all polling places. In Maryland, the machines were used statewide for the first time in March. Officials said the election went smoothly, with only a few minor problems.

Laura Thoms, one of the TrueVoteMD lawyers, said in her opening statement that “implementation of the requested remedies will not significantly disrupt the election process.” She also said election officials in other states are carrying out the same kind of changes that Maryland officials have refused to make.

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