- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 2, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland State Board of Elections will contract with two universities to study the reliability of the state’s Diebold electronic voting machines and help legislators decide whether there should be a paper trail that can be used to verify that votes are counted accurately.

Linda H. Lamone, state elections administrator, told members of a Senate subcommittee on elections yesterday that the studies will be completed before the General Assembly meets next January.

Diebold electronic machines were used in all Maryland polling places last year except in Baltimore, which has a separate system. State election officials say the machines accurately counted the votes, and there were only the kinds of scattered problems that always occur on Election Day.

But critics say the Diebold machines are unreliable because they do not create a paper trail that can be used to verify individual votes and are vulnerable to errors and fraud, including attacks by hackers or manipulation of votes by insiders.

Mrs. Lamone said the Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County will conduct a technical study of as many as seven voter-verification systems to determine their reliability, cost, susceptibility to fraud and whether they will work with the Diebold machines.

A second study by the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland at College Park will examine how adding a voter-verification system would affect voters and the administration of elections.

“No one knows if that [a paper trail] is the correct way to go. Hopefully, this will determine that,” Mrs. Lamone said.

“Thank God you are doing that,” said Sen. Paula Colodny Hollinger, Baltimore County Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

“There still is a lot of voter concern,” she said.

Avi Rubin, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University and a leading critic of the Diebold machines, said there should be a study because “doing nothing is a disaster.”

“Maryland’s got a problem because they are stuck with these Diebold machines they paid all this money for,” he said.

Mr. Rubin said the state should consider systems other than those Lamone plans to include in the study are flawed. He was critical of the use of rolls of paper on which ballots would be printed sequentially because they would make recounts difficult, would be subject to jamming and would make it possible to determine how individuals voted by linking names of voters who used a machine with the printed votes.

Maryland used electronic voting machines in all polling places for the 2004 election and was one of the first states to do so. Nationally, about 40 million voters used touch-screen machines in the presidential election last year.

Despite some small high-profile problems in other states, the election did not turn into the disaster that some critics had predicted nationally and in Maryland.

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