- The Washington Times - Friday, September 3, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — The Republican-dominated State Board of Elections took the first step yesterday toward firing Linda Lamone as election laws administrator, suspending her with pay and bringing in an acting administrator to run the office just two months before the general election.

Hours later, attorneys for Miss Lamone asked for a temporary restraining order to require the board to reinstate her. A hearing on her request was scheduled for Tuesday.

The dispute comes when Maryland is preparing to use electronic voting machines statewide for the second time, the first time in a presidential election. Miss Lamone has defended the Diebold AccuVote-TS touch-screen machines against critics who insist they are vulnerable to fraud.

TrueVoteMD filed a suit asking that the state be required to take additional security measures and provide paper ballots for people who don’t trust the Diebold machines, but Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck ruled against TrueVoteMD on Wednesday, saying the state had taken all necessary steps to ensure the integrity of the election.

Timothy Maloney, Miss Lamone’s attorney, said Maryland law does not allow a suspension until there is a hearing on the administrative charges that were approved by the board Thursday night as a prelude to firing her.

The two top Democratic leaders in the legislature also criticized the action, saying the board appeared to have intentionally violated the law.

“This is raw, partisan politics, and smacks of Florida being revisited in Maryland,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Prince George’s Democrat, said yesterday. “I can’t imaging that the Republicans could trump up any charges that could be sustained in a court of law in terms of reasons for her dismissal.”

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, also defended Miss Lamone, saying she “has been acknowledged as running a model election board for the nation.”

Mr. Miller and Mr. Busch noted that election administrators in other states have chosen Miss Lamone as president-elect of their national organization.

Mr. Busch said it has been the goal of the Ehrlich administration “to take over the election board for well over a year.”

Board Chairman Gilles Burger said it “is hard to address this kind of perception” that the board was motivated by political considerations.

“I can tell you this has nothing to do with partisan politics,” he said.

Mr. Burger announced Miss Lamone’s suspension yesterday and said Robin Downs Colbert, head of the election board in Prince George’s County, would take over as acting state administrator of election laws.

A statement issued by the board said the members were responding to “several complaints from multiple sources, including several local boards of elections” about Miss Lamone’s performance as head of the office that oversees Maryland elections.

Mr. Burger said the board voted Thursday night after meeting privately for more than seven hours to file administrative charges against Miss Lamone. He said he is prohibited by law from disclosing details of the charges, but the law allows her to be dismissed only for “incompetence, misconduct or other good cause.”

The next step in the process will be a hearing before an administrative law judge, where Miss Lamone would have the right to contest the findings included in the charges filed against her. Mr. Burger said a decision on whether to fire Miss Lamone would not be made until the board received a report from the administrative law judge affirming or rejecting the complaints against the administrator.

He said he did not think bringing in a new administrator at the state level and in Prince George’s County just two months before the election will interfere with the presidential election in November.

But Mr. Miller said the move “is going to cause the public to have even less confidence in the election system than it currently has.”

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