- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Montgomery County’s election board yesterday sought a court order to force a local election judge to return an electronic voting machine that he kept for testing after a problem arose during a weekend demonstration with Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

The county filed for a temporary restraining order in circuit court, saying Stan Boyd, 63, refused requests to return the machine and had no right to test the equipment.

Mr. Boyd said he was contacted Monday by CBS’s “60 Minutes” after news reports about difficulties that arose when Miss Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, tested the machine during a demonstration at a Takoma Park festival. Mr. Boyd said he allowed an independent tester to review the machine yesterday on behalf of the network.

An attorney for the county said the machine that Mr. Boyd checked out Friday was only for demonstration purposes and does not have updated software that the AccuVote TS touch-screen machines will use in the November general election. Any problems that the testing might uncover could be misleading, said Kevin Karpinsky, a lawyer for the county board.

“What will get lost in the message is that this is merely a demonstration unit,” he said in a hearing yesterday. “This could lead to a lack of voter confidence in the system itself.”

Meanwhile, the Maryland Court of Appeals rejected a group’s appeal that would allow voters to use a paper ballot in November.

The court yesterday affirmed a lower-court ruling in the case and rejected the appeal of a group called TrueVoteMd.org.

The group wanted the court to give voters the option of using a paper ballot in the general election. It also wanted the court to order the state to take additional steps to protect voting security.

But the court affirmed a ruling that a circuit judge made two weeks ago. That judge found that the state already had taken all the steps necessary to protect the balloting.

Linda Schade, the lead plaintiff on the lawsuit, said the decision was not a surprise. She said the state delayed the suit for so long that judges were unable to find a remedy that could be implemented in time for the upcoming election.

Maryland has invested $55 million to implement electronic voting statewide this year, one of several states and local jurisdictions to use the touch-screen machines. State election officials reported few problems during the March primary with the machines manufactured by Diebold Inc.

But some independent tests have suggested that the systems could be vulnerable to hacking, computer failures or human error. Many opponents of electronic voting want the machines to print a paper record of every ballot that could be used in a recount or to verify a voter’s selections.

Mr. Boyd, of White Oak, said he was trying to search out any problems with the voting system that residents will use in the upcoming election.

Mr. Boyd, who took part in a TrueVoteMd.org rally in July, according to a press release from the group, checked the machine out on Friday and said an elections official told him he could keep it through Thursday. Mr. Boyd intended to demonstrate it to voters at different events.

Miss Mikulski tried the machine on Sunday at the Takoma Park festival. According to an aide, she mistakenly cast a vote on a mock ballot when her hand brushed against the screen. It reportedly took her several attempts to correct the mistake.

Mr. Boyd said that the error might have occurred because the screen was too sensitive and that the instructions on how voters should use the equipment were misleading.

After press reports on Monday of Miss Mikulski’s problem, Mr. Boyd said county elections officials contacted him, and he agreed to return the machine that day. But after CBS asked him whether it could test the machine, he told the county he planned to keep the machine until Thursday, as originally planned.

County officials said they then contacted Mr. Boyd at least nine times by phone in an effort to get him to return the machine. Mr. Boyd said they even showed up at his house.

Mr. Karpinsky said Mr. Boyd was evasive and eventually stopped taking calls.

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