- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2006

LINTHICUM, Md. — Maryland elections officials’ daylong test of troublesome electronic polling books was deemed “successful” by the voting machines’ manufacturer and “positive” by a state official yesterday.

In what a project manager for Diebold Election Systems described as a “real-life election exercise,” 7,726 persons “voted” on machines set up at a hotel near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Company officials ran a mock election in four precincts — one large, one small and two mid-sized. The test ran from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., the same as an election day.

“I would call it a success,” Diebold’s Maryland project manager Tom Feehan said last night. “I am very happy with the information and results we got.”

The test will be used to decide as soon as today whether to scrap new computers used to check in voters. The problems were not with the voting machines themselves, but in the computers used to replace thick paper voter rolls to check in voters at precincts.

“I am feeling a whole lot better about this general election,” said Gail Hatfield, elections administrator in Calvert County. Her county experienced the same problems reported statewide — problems coordinating data between machines.

During the Sept. 12 primary, some voters were turned away or had to wait because of technical glitches or because too few poll workers showed up. The head of the state elections board, Linda H. Lamone, said she would toss the electronic poll books for the Nov. 7 general election unless she was satisfied the computer problems were fixed.

Most of the stand-in voters on hand were Diebold employees, but some local elections officials took part, too, Mrs. Lamone said.

“So far, so good,” Mrs. Lamone said early in the day. “The locals are telling me they’re getting more comfortable.”

Mr. Feehan said Diebold was able to demonstrate that the rebooting issue was resolved. During last month’s primary election, machines froze and needed to be rebooted after every few dozen voters.

He also said the loss of synchronization among machines was eliminated by using a mouse instead of the touchscreen to cast votes, and added that among 1,000 votes cast during the test using the touchscreen, there was no loss of synchronizations among voting machines.

“We are confident Maryland could use this with the touchpad or mouse without losing synchronicity,” said Mr. Feehan, adding that Diebold will present those findings to the state elections board today.

The state also made progress addressing the other big problem on primary day — too few elections judges, which slowed voting, officials said.

All state employees have been asked to volunteer at the polls, and the State Bar Association has asked its 22,000 members to help.

“We’ve had quite a few calls come in,” Miss Hatfield said. “We’re not going to be out of judges.”

However, voters won’t be certain all the problems are fixed until Election Day, said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, who cast a fake ballot yesterday because he said he wanted to see firsthand how the computers worked.

“I’m confident that we will be able to have this election,” Mr. Cummings told reporters.

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