- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 25, 2008

ANNAPOLIS | Maryland is pursuing an $8.5 million claim against a voting machine company to repay costs incurred by the state to fix flaws in touch-screen machines, the attorney general said Wednesday.

The case relates to a 2001 state contract with Diebold Election Systems Inc. for the voting system, which computer experts later reported to have security problems and reliability concerns. The state says it incurred expenses to correct the problems so the system would be reliable in elections.

The added costs resulted from consulting and technical services and personnel, as well as materials and supplies, the state contends.

“Under the terms of the contract, the company must reimburse the state for its costs of fixing Diebold’s voting system to make it more accurate, reliable, and secure,” Attorney General Doug Gansler, a Democrat, said in a statement.

But Premier Solutions Inc., an Allen, Texas-based subsidiary of North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold, said the claim is based on “inaccurate and unfounded assumptions.” The company also said smooth elections last month in Maryland demonstrated that the system was sound.

“The [state’s] claim may be an attempt to retroactively change the rules of the contracts, but it does not change or reflect the actual record of successful performance,” Premier President Dave Byrd said in a statement.

The state, however, contends the voting system is reliable and secure in part because of the measures taken by the Maryland State Board of Elections and the expenses the state has incurred.

“Diebold is obligated under its contract … to pay these expenses, which Diebold made necessary,” Austin Schlick, the state’s chief of litigation wrote in the claim.

But in its response this week, Premier contended that it “provided, at no added charge, additional services and materials above and beyond its duties under the contract.” The company also said the state has failed to provide specifics about how the company was deficient.

“The lack of detail and information is further compounded by the lapse of time,” the company wrote.

The deficiencies cited by the state include: a lack of compliance with the state’s information security policy and standards and the need for the state to install an integrated process to ensure the system’s integrity.

The system also did not have adequate access controls or provisions to assure that only certified software was loaded, the state contends.

Maryland has paid about $90 million to Diebold under the contract. The state has indicated it will not pay nearly $4 million in bills related to this year’s elections or future bills until the dispute is settled.

The state filed a claim last month with the Maryland State Board of Elections procurement director, who will make a decision on the claim.

“It could take several months for the procurement officer to review the claim,” said Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Mr. Gansler.

The decision by the procurement officer could then be reviewed by the Maryland State Board of Contract Appeals.

Maryland is switching to paper ballots for the 2010 statewide elections, even though it will still be paying for the computerized system until 2014.

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