- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Maryland State Board of Elections has not adequately overseen local elections officials for the past decade and has failed to protect electronic voter rolls, according to a state audit.

“Comprehensive reviews were not periodically conducted of each local board of elections’ compliance with applicable election laws and regulations,” says the audit, which was compiled and released yesterday by the Office of Legislative Audits (OLA).

In addition, “formal, comprehensive reviews had not been periodically conducted” since 1995, despite four earlier OLA reports that noted the problem, the audit states.

What’s more, the Board of Elections has allowed too many local officials to have access to electronic voter rolls and does not have adequate safeguards “to verify critical changes made to the statewide voter registration system,” the audit states.

About 46,000 changes were made to the statewide system between January and April, and 252 elections workers among the 24 local boards had access to “add or delete registered voters.”

The audit also reports that security is inadequate for the state board’s computers and its Web site, where elections results are reported.

Oversight of local election boards has been a contentious issue since Maryland voters encountered widespread problems in the Sept. 12 primary election.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican seeking re-election, has blamed state elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone for the problems.

Mrs. Lamone, who is allied with the leaders of the Democrat-controlled General Assembly, has downplayed the problems and said that they will be corrected for the Nov. 7 general election.

Democrats have said that Mr. Ehrlich is responsible for the problems because he appoints the members of the local elections boards.

Mrs. Lamone took issue with the audit, saying that the electronic voter rolls are “a work in progress” and that “it seems inappropriate to base findings on a partially implemented system.”

She also said that the “level of auditing and monitoring” called for by OLA “simply cannot be conducted with existing resources.”

Mrs. Lamone asked that OLA to conduct future audits in non-election years.

The Office of Legislative Audits is part of the legislature’s Department of Legislative Services and evaluates state agencies.

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