- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Senate Democrats yesterday rebuffed Republican efforts to establish a “paper trail” for this year’s elections, rendering lifeless a move to discard electronic voting this fall.

Republicans say a paper trail is vital in a year when Democrats have passed laws allowing early voting at 38 sites statewide. Electronic voting machines that are susceptible to sabotage will be housed overnight at polling stations for seven consecutive nights.

Maintaining a paperless election this fall is one piece of a Democratic strategy to enable voter fraud this fall, Republicans say.

“They’re afraid of Bob Ehrlich,” said Sen. Nancy Jacobs, Cecil and Harford Republican.

A spokesman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, has said he “fully expects” statewide organized voter fraud by Democrats this fall.

Democrats disagreed.

Sen. Roy P. Dyson said five months is simply too short a time to switch voting systems.

“Right now we can’t produce a paper trail. I don’t think there’s any major concern. Our system is accurate,” the Southern Maryland Democrat said.

Derek Walker, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said, “People who use scare tactics are just plain scared.”

Yesterday, Sen. Sandra B. Schrader, Howard Republican, tried to amend a Senate bill so it would match a House measure that would set aside electronic voting and use optical scan voting. The House measure passed unanimously last month.

Sen. Ulysses Currie, Prince George’s Democrat, requested that the bill be held over until Monday, the last day of the session, because of cost concerns.

Sen. Andrew P. Harris, Baltimore County Republican, told Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat, that the amendment would remove the cause of Mr. Currie’s concern.

Mr. Miller granted the request to delay the bill, while Mrs. Schrader was waiting to explain the amendment.

“Mr. President, I didn’t even get to offer my amendment,” Mrs. Schrader said, standing. Mr. Harris raised his hands with palms up in protest.

Mr. Miller said they would look at the measure Monday, but with an already overloaded schedule, Mr. Harris called the delay a “death knell.”

Republicans said Mr. Miller was trying to kill the bill.

Mr. Miller disagreed. “I’m not trying to [kill it], but time is running out,” he said.

The governor’s top staff have also said that Mr. Miller and Maryland State Board of Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone oppose discarding electronic voting and have worked together to “derail” any chance of establishing a paper trail.

Mr. Ehrlich supported the electronic voting machines, made by Diebold Inc., until about three years ago when a study conducted at Johns Hopkins University found that the machines had “significant security flaws.”

“Voters, without any insider privileges, can cast unlimited votes without being detected,” the report said.

Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator of the Board of Elections, said the bugs have been fixed, and that the board is considering placing security guards overnight at early voting precincts.

“We’re going to employ a level of security that voters can feel confident in,” Mr. Goldstein said.

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