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MD State Board of Elections releases RFP for new voting system

In 2007 Maryland's General Assembly voted unanimously to replace our paperless touch-screen voting units with a system that enables voters to mark paper ballots and scan them in the polling place to tabulate votes. Voters who are unable to mark a paper ballot by hand or who prefer to use an electronic interface will be able to use a ballot-marking machine that prints out a paper ballot for scanning. This system provides an independent paper record of voter intent that can be used to recount close elections and to audit election results. It will be used starting in 2016.

Maryland's State Board of Elections recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the new voting equipment. The RFP closes September 9, 2014. Oral Presentations will be heard (approx) September 29 to October 3, 2014.

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Vulnerabilities of Maryland's Online Registration System Put Voters at Risk

UPDATE: In 2013, Maryland's General Assembly required additional personal identifying information to be gathered from voters to authorize transactions in the Online Voter Registration system. While the authentication used is still very weak, it is a step in the right direction. However, Maryland now offers absentee ballots to be delivered online and it is possible to receive one without supplying the additional identifying information.

OCTOBER 2012 -- SAVE our Votes (SOV) recommends that Maryland voters check their voter registration information to make sure that no one has tampered with it, following revelations that hackers could easily gain access to Maryland's new online registration system.

According to several nationally prominent computer security experts who recently wrote a letter to Maryland's State Board of Elections (SBE), the new online voter registration system has "severe security vulnerabilities" that "leave the system open to large-scale, automated fraud, and make the Maryland system among the most vulnerable of all states' new online voter registration systems." Voters could have difficulty voting on election day if their registration information was altered in certain ways.

SOV first alerted the State Board of Elections about the problem in August 2012 and then worked with computer security experts and election advocates from other states to develop recommendations to prevent, detect, and recover from potential attacks. The computer experts wrote a letter to the SBE in late September suggesting specific remedies election officials could put in place, both immediately and after the election. The SBE has never formally acknowledged receipt of nor responded to the letter, though it was discussed at the agency's September 27 meeting.

According to an article published in the New York Times, the SBE says it has checks in place to detect fraud. But the SBE does not acknowledge that legitimate transactions may be nearly impossible to distinguish from fraudulent ones, and that if problems are discovered in the polling place, procedures for resolving them must be outlined in advance.


Stop the reckless rush toward voting over the internet

  • As insecure as touch-screen voting is, voting systems that use the internet are far more dangerous because they open the door to many types of fraud that can affect the outcome of elections.
  • In June 2014 Maryland's State Board of Elections (SBE) began delivering blank ballots over the internet to any absentee voter who requests one. A voter can download and print the ballot, mark it, sign the oath, and mail it in. But these ballots printed by the voter cannot be tabulated by the optical scanners used to count absentee ballots. They must first be copied onto real ballots that the scanners can read.
  • The SBE intends to allow absentee voters to mark their ballots on the internet, print them out, and mail them in. A bar code on the ballot would encode the votes and be used to print out a ballot that can be read by the scanners. This ballot, which the voter never sees, would be the ballot counted.
  • This new internet voting system is not federally certified, and no federal standards have been set yet. Further, it does not meet the certification requirements of Maryland law.
  • Signatures are never checked to ensure that a ballot was submitted by the voter who requested it. There are countless ways to "hack" this type of election.
  • In other states that have "no-excuse" absentee voting, the percentage of absentee voters has grown quickly.

WE RECOMMEND: Maryland should follow the lead of other states and restrict the option of internet ballot delivery to military and overseas voters, groups that do not always have the safer voting options that are available to domestic absentee voters. Enforce state requirements for federal certification of all voting software and hardware, voter-verifiability of the official ballot, and protection of ballot privacy, which may be at risk with this system.

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