- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said yesterday that he would like to scrap electronic voter databases to avoid an Election Day debacle similar to last week’s problems in the primaries — and he threatened to reconvene the Democrat-controlled legislature to make paper ballots an alternative.

“Potentially we need to convene a special session. That’s one option here,” said Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican seeking re-election.

One of the governor’s top aides downplayed the likelihood of such a move, because the governor would not be allowed to campaign during a special session.

State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat, said a special session is unnecessary.

In addition, House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, said current election law allows paper ballots to be used.

But Mr. Ehrlich maintained that a special session is on the table after hearing testimony from state elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone.

The governor summoned Mrs. Lamone to testify at yesterday’s Board of Public Works meeting to account for problems that prevented some voters from casting primary ballots in Baltimore and in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

“The bottom line to this whole thing is in 48 days we’re going to have a general election, and we literally cannot afford to see take place the events that took place [last week],” Mr. Ehrlich told Mrs. Lamone.

Mrs. Lamone said she has a plan to fix problems with the electronic voting machines, called e-poll books, and with poll workers who didn’t show up or showed up late, which occurred primarily in Baltimore.

Problems caused by human error in Montgomery County — elections officials forgot to send the access cards for the electronic voting system to precincts — would not recur and would be fixed easily, she said.

Statewide, e-poll books in many precincts overloaded and rebooted, causing poll workers to panic and lines to back up. Some e-poll books also did not synchronize, leaving open the possibility of someone voting more than once.

“This was a difficult election. A number of the systems we use were stressed, and a few broke,” Mrs. Lamone said. “Getting it right is a simple, straightforward goal. … We are going to be working around-the-clock.”

Mrs. Lamone said Diebold Election Systems, the manufacturer of the voting machines, would be held responsible for retesting the devices and providing more training for poll workers.

She told the Board of Public Works that the state would recruit more election judges and require emergency communications plans from county election boards.

The governor was not impressed.

“That’s not a good enough answer for the voters,” Mr. Ehrlich said. “Why not have a paper system, the old system, ready for backup?”

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Mrs. Lamone could not say why pre-primary testing did not reveal any of the problems that occurred last week. She said she would require all counties to record voters as having voted electronically and with paper ballots.

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