- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck yesterday rejected a challenge to Maryland’s electronic voting system, ruling that the state has “taken all reasonable steps to protect the integrity of the voting process in Maryland.”

Granting the request of TrueVoteMD that voters be allowed to use paper ballots in November if they do not trust touch-screen machines “would cause much confusion and is clearly against the public interest,” Judge Manck said.

He also refused to order the state to take additional steps to protect the security of the voting machines.

“The court finds the state of Maryland has acted reasonably in setting up the system and protecting it against any reasonable risks,” the ruling said.

All voting systems are subject to fraud, and the plaintiffs in the TrueVoteMD lawsuit demand a standard for electronic machines that is so high it is not feasible and would be cost prohibitive, the ruling said.

Judge Manck said there have not been any verified incidences of tampering with touch-screen machines anywhere in the United States.

“The votes have been counted accurately. Recounts have occurred with complete accuracy, and there is no reason to believe this will not continue,” he said.

Linda Schade, lead plaintiff in the suit, said TrueVoteMD will file an appeal with the Maryland Court of Appeals.

“I am not surprised. I am very disappointed,” Miss Schade said. “The court did not find in favor of the people and the voters of Maryland.

“As far as I’m concerned, the testimony was very clear that this system is a train wreck waiting to happen,” she said. “This makes our planned statewide monitoring system more critical than ever.”

Miss Schade said TrueVoteMD will ask voters across Maryland to report problems that occur with the machines in November.

Maryland used touch-screen machines in all polling places for the first time in the March primary election and will use them again in November. AccuVote-TS machines manufactured by Diebold Election Systems are used throughout the state except in Baltimore, which already had installed Sequoia Voting Systems machines when Maryland decided to adopt a uniform statewide system after the 2000 presidential election.

State election officials have maintained that they have taken the necessary steps to prevent fraud in the November election and ensure an accurate vote count.

Linda Lamone, state election laws administrator, said Judge Manck’s ruling “ratifies what we’ve been saying all along, that the voters can trust the integrity of the system.”

In addition to asking that voters be given the option of using a paper ballot, TrueVoteMD had asked that the State Board of Elections be required to institute additional security measures, including installing Microsoft patches on the computers that count ballots to reduce the chances that someone would hack into the system and alter ballot counts.

Judge Manck rejected the request for additional security measures.

There is a very real fear that “unknown individuals can tamper with the machines before, or during, the election process, or after the votes have been tabulated and sent to the central depository,” he said.

But the ruling said the state has “implemented those safeguards that would reasonably protect against the alleged vulnerability and security flaws.”

Opponents of the touch-screen machines used in Maryland argued they are particularly vulnerable to fraud because they do not provide a paper copy of ballots that can be used in a recount to verify the accuracy of the initial results.

But lawyers for TrueVoteMD acknowledged that it was too late to scrap the machines in November and did not press for a requirement that printers be added to the machines to make a paper copy of each vote.

Electronic machines have been the subject of intense debate nationally, with supporters and opponents arguing over their security or lack of it.

Voting-machine manufacturers are working on machines that would leave a paper trail, a security measure generally supported by critics of electronic voting.

Maryland election officials said they could not install printers, even if they had time before the general election, because none has been certified by an independent testing authority, and federal law prohibits use of election machinery that has not been certified.

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