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 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 last Friday 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.
SOV has held off from publicizing this vulnerability until after the close of Maryland's voter registration on October 16. Now the group urges voters to check their registration records online. Any registration changes not authorized by the voter, especially changes of address, should be reported immediately to the ACLU of Maryland's Election Protection Hotline at 1-888-496-2258, which will help voters work with election officials to ensure that problems are resolved.
SOV also urges election officials to put in place the following safeguards:
For all address changes submitted online, send voter notification cards to both the old and new addresses. Currently notification cards are sent only to the new address, so a voter might not know that his or her address has been fraudulently changed.
If a fraudulent address change causes a voter to vote by provisional ballot, use the "Other" reason code to flag the problem. During canvassing, count the entire ballot as if it was cast in the correct precinct.
Take the system offline now that the registration deadline has passed until improvements can be made to better secure it against tampering.
We sincerely hope that no one has taken advantage of this vulnerability to gain political advantage. But unfortunately Maryland has a history of deceptive leaflets, fraudulent robocalls, and other election malfeasance, so it is surprising that the SBE is not taking this threat more seriously.
[VISIT OUR BLOG SITE] ###
New Study Shows Maryland Could Save Millions
by Switching to Optical Scan Voting
A report just released by the Department of Legislative Services shows Maryland could save at least $9.5 million over 8 years by replacing its aging touch-screen voting equipment with optically scanned paper ballots. The study estimates that the state already would have saved $1.6 to $5.2 million by now if we had switched in 2006.
The independent cost analysis was mandated last spring by the General Assembly to examine the true costs of operating the existing machines versus switching to the more verifiable voting system required by a law passed in 2007. Controversy over the costs erupted during last year's legislative session when State Elections Administrator Linda Lamone presented a cost comparison to Board of Public Works members that vastly overstated the cost of moving to optical scan while underestimating the costs of operating the existing machines.
SAVE Our Votes disputed those numbers, presenting legislators with a detailed analysis showing that the cost of implementing optical scan would be about the same as continuing to use the touch-screens.
After it was too late to purchase the new equipment, the SBE requested nearly $11 million in supplemental funds to conduct the 2010 elections using existing equipment — almost twice the amount they had originally projected. The GA appropriated the funds but authorized an independent review of the SBE's cost projections.
The study was conducted by RTI International, an independent nonprofit research firm. Key findings and recommendations include:
The touch-screen equipment is reaching the end of its anticipated life-span, and will require a substantial ongoing investment in repairs and replacement machines while potentially putting our elections at risk.
Optical scan voting would reduce the cost of labor needed to support and maintain the voting system, primarily because it uses only one-fifth the amount of equipment.
The optical scan equipment bid selected but not funded last year was competitively priced and included appropriate types and quantities of voting equipment.
Maryland should begin a phased-in transition as soon as possible to replace its oldest equipment before the 2012 General Election.
The SBE should allow local election boards to choose the types of voting booths appropriate for their polling locations, based on master contracts negotiated by the state.
"This study shows that it's time for Linda Lamone to stop dragging her feet and move forward with optical scan voting," said Robert Ferraro, Co-Director of SAVE Our Votes.
Lamone, a staunch defender of the touch-screen voting machines, has said that Maryland will get a paper trail "over my dead body."
"Other states such as Florida, North Carolina, and New Mexico long ago rejected touch-screen voting after election-day melt-downs left their election results in doubt," said SOV Co-Director Shelley Fudge, "Optically scanned paper ballots are not only safer and more reliable — they will save the state dearly needed funds."
SAVE our Votes Monitors 2010 General Election in Maryland
SAVE our Votes, a non-partisan election integrity organization, will monitor the 2010 General Election in Maryland with volunteer poll-watchers throughout the state.
The poll-watchers will be documenting conditions at the polls and working cooperatively with the Election Protection Coalition, a group of nonpartisan organizations spearheaded by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The Coalition is offering free legal help to voters who experience problems at the polls.
Voters can report any problems they experience or witness by calling toll-free: 866-OUR-VOTE or via Twitter @866ourvote or using hash tag #EP2010. For more details on how to report using Twitter, please see http://866ourvote.org/page?id=0057.
The Election Protection Coalition also has a website where reports can be viewed by anyone, in real-time, as they come in: http://www.ourvotelive.org/home.php
SAVE our Votes Co-Director Robert Ferraro will be on the ground throughout the day monitoring conditions and helping to investigate serious incident reports. He will be able to respond to any problems throughout the state and will be available for press interviews in the field.
Numerous problems with electronic voting systems like the one used in Maryland have surfaced across the nation during early voting and in this year's primaries.
Vote flipping from one candidate to another on touch-screen machines was so widespread in North Carolina during the early voting period, that a judge responded to a GOP lawsuit by ordering emergency regulations to warn voters at the polls on election day. http://www.wral.com/news/local/politics/story/8539911/
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, MONDAY, April 12, 2010
CONTACT: Robert Ferraro,
General Assembly Orders Independent Study of Voting System Costs After Move to Paper Ballots is Delayed
Maryland should be voting on a new, reliable paper-ballot voting system in this year’s elections, according to a law passed in 2007 mandating a change away from the highly vulnerable touch-screen voting equipment. But the transition was delayed based on cost estimates supplied by the State Board of Elections (SBE) which asserted that it would be far less expensive to continue using the current equipment. Skepticism about the accuracy of those cost projections has prompted the General Assembly to order an independent study of the costs of operating the current touch-screen voting system and the costs of switching to the paper ballot/optical scan voting system mandated by law.
"The SBE’s cost projections have proved to be highly unreliable,” said Shelley Fudge, Co-Director of SAVE our Votes (SOV), a nonpartisan watchdog group working for Secure, Accessible, Verifiable Elections in Maryland. “We applaud the General Assembly for seeking an independent review of these numbers, especially at this critical time when our state and counties are seeking ways to reduce costs.”
Voter advocacy groups such as SOV have long contended that optical scan voting systems are far more economical to operate than touch-screen voting machines because they are simpler and require about 1/5 the amount of equipment, significantly reducing the labor costs of maintaining and deploying the system. SOV’s thorough cost analysis (see www.saveourvotes.org), shows that the new voting system can be purchased and deployed for roughly the same cost as using the existing equipment, and would reduce future operating costs.
The SBE provided cost projections to Board of Public Works members last October showing that the cost of switching to a new optical scan voting system would be roughly $19 million for Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011 while the cost of using the existing equipment would be about $6 million. However, after procurement of the new system was postponed, the SBE requested nearly $11 million to operate the existing equipment in this year’s elections.
SOV also questions the $6 million the SBE says would be needed to purchase voting booths and the carts they claim are needed to transport the new equipment. SBE proposes spending about $200 each for voting booths, but folding table-top privacy screens like those currently used for provisional voters are available for about $7 each and would reduce the costs of transporting and storing the voting equipment.
The study will examine the current and projected operating and maintenance costs and the projected lifespan for the state’s existing touch-screen voting equipment as well as the costs of procuring and implementing an optical scan system in the most cost-effective manner. It will also review the voting system costs and contracts of other jurisdictions that currently use paper ballot/optical scan voting systems. The report is due December 1, 2010.
"Election-day disasters in other states have proven these machines to be highly vulnerable to malfunctions and errors that can lose or alter votes,” said Robert Ferraro, SOV Co-Director. "This year’s elections could have some races that will be very close, and since our current voting system provides no means to do an independent recount, this could leave our election results in doubt. The sooner we move to paper ballots, the sooner we can save money and restore integrity to our election system.”
VOTING SYSTEM DELAYS COULD COST MARYLAND MILLIONS:
Advocates Say Postponing Procurement of an Optical Scan System Not Cost-Effective
Maryland House Ways and Means Committee To Hear Proposals Tuesday, March 3 at 1 pm
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MONDAY, MARCH 2, 2009
CONTACTS: Rebecca Wilson 202-716-3759 Robert Ferraro 301-661-2989
Legislation to be heard on Tuesday could delay the purchase of all or part of the new optical-scan (op-scan) voting system approved by lawmakers two years ago. Several bills introduced this session would modify requirements for the procurement of the new equipment. HB1211 and SB970, introduced by Del. Eckardt (R, Dist. 37B) and Sen. Colburn (R, Dist. 37), seek to postpone the implementation date of the new voting system until after 2014, when counties will have finished repaying loans used to purchase the current touch-screen voting system.
“We respect the concerns of our cash-strapped counties in these lean times,” said Rebecca Wilson, Co-Director of SAVE our Votes, a nonprofit grassroots organization working for Secure, Accessible, Verifiable Elections in Maryland. “But this new voting system is so much more economical than our current system that both the state and counties will see an immediate reduction in voting system costs even while we are purchasing the system. And in five years, after the purchase loan is paid off, we can expect even more significant savings. Each year we continue using our touch-screen machines, we dig ourselves deeper into the red.” SAVE our Votes’ cost analysis of Maryland’s voting system may be found at http://www.saveourvotes.org/reports/08-costs-mdvotingsystem.pdf.
The new voting system will use paper ballots counted by optical scanners. Each polling place will need just one scanner and one machine that enables voters with disabilities to mark and verify their ballots. These two machines will replace an average of ten or eleven touch-screen voting units. This 80% reduction in equipment will greatly reduce the operating costs of the voting system, including testing, maintenance, repairs, replacement, transportation, and storage of the machines. In addition, the equipment is much simpler, less prone to malfunction, and has a longer life expectancy than touch-screen systems. The proven reliability, economy, and accuracy of op-scan systems have made them the most widely used type of voting equipment in America today. The 2008 Minnesota recount revealed an accuracy rate of 99.9% with the op-scan systems in use there.
Maryland has outgrown its current system and had to rent additional voting machines to accommodate increases in voter registration in last November’s election. Even with the additional equipment, wait times of more than two hours were documented throughout the state on Election Day. Despite record interest in this historic election and hundreds of thousands of new voter registrations, voter turnout was slightly lower than expected, perhaps because some voters may have been unable to find time to wait in the long lines. An op-scan system would enable voters to mark their ballots anywhere there is a private space to mark them, without needing any expensive equipment, which would expand through-put capacity during peak voting hours and greatly reduce wait times.
“The current budget crunch makes it more important than ever to move quickly to a less expensive voting system,” said Wilson. “Maryland can’t afford to wait.”
SAVE our Votes Monitoring 2008 Presidential Election in Maryland
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 3, 2008
Robert Ferraro 301-661-2989 cell Baltimore Metro area
Shelley Fudge 301-580-9224 cell Montgomery & Prince Georges counties
SAVE our Votes, a non-partisan election integrity organization will monitor the 2008 Presidential Election in Maryland with teams of volunteer poll-watchers in 6 counties and Baltimore City. Teams will be working in Harford, Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery & Prince Georges counties and Baltimore City.
The poll-watchers, linked through two command centers in Silver Spring and Columbia, MD, will be documenting conditions at the polls and working cooperatively with national election protection organizations that are offering free legal help to voters who experience problems at the polls. These organizations are operating national toll-free hotlines where voters can report any problems they encounter:
866-MY-VOTE-1 (NAACP Voter Fund & Tom Joyner radio show)
SAVE our Votes Co-Directors, Shelley Fudge and Robert Ferraro will be on the ground throughout the day monitoring conditions and helping to investigate serious incident reports. They will be able to respond to any problems throughout the state and will be available for press interviews in the field.###
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 22, 2008
• William Edelstein 410-336-6100 (cell), SAVEourVotes.org (Baltimore)
• Robert Ferraro 301-661-2989 (cell), Co-Director, SAVEourVotes.org (Columbia)
• Karen Neuman 202-331-0114, Legal Director, Fair Elections Legal Network (Washington, DC)
With high turnout predicted in the hotly contested presidential race, a recent study by physicist William Edelstein
shows that many Maryland voters can expect to wait hours to vote in November’s elections. The study found that most polling places could experience wait times of more than 2 hours at some point
on Election Day if voters take more than 6 minutes each to mark their ballots. The sites most likely to be affected
are those in which a majority of voters arrive at peak voting times before and after the work day.
“It is a process similar to what everyone experiences on roads, as people in the Baltimore/Washington metro area
know only too well,” said Dr. Edelstein of SAVE Our Votes (SOV), a nonprofit group advocating Secure,
Accessible, Verifiable Elections for Maryland. “Traffic flows smoothly as long as the density is low. As volume
increases, traffic gradually slows until, at some concentration, it locks up and cars accumulate into long lines
which can take hours to clear.”
Maryland’s State Board of Elections (SBE) plans to spend $100,000 to rent additional voting machines for the
November election to accommodate increases in voter registrations. But Edelstein’s study shows that the extra
equipment will do very little to reduce the long lines that many voters encountered in Maryland’s 2004 and 2006
“There is no doubt that many voters who cannot wait will leave without voting, including the elderly, the infirm,
people needing to get to work, or parents needing to care for children,” he said.
The solution recommended by Dr. Edelstein and others is to increase voting system capacity by allowing voters to
use paper ballots when long lines begin to form. A letter sent Monday byFair Elections Legal Network on behalf of SOV asks the SBE to authorize the use of emergency paper
ballots to prevent voter disenfranchisement caused by long waits.
“These paper ballots are already supplied to precincts for use in emergencies or during court-ordered extended
voting hours,” said Robert Ferraro, co-director of SOV. “The State Board of Elections should allow them to be
used also to prevent or reduce long wait times.”
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler supports this solution. Speaking about the findings of his task force
that had studied irregularities in the state’s 2006 elections on National Public Radio’s Kojo Nnamdi Show in May,
Mr. Gansler told a caller, “The notion of emergency paper ballots is … a great idea, in my view.” (Listen to the program).
Elections officials have raised objections to this use of emergency ballots, instead encouraging voters to mark
their choices ahead of time on sample ballots to speed up the process of casting their votes and to vote during the
middle of the day. But voters who commute long distances to a job or whose work or family schedules are
inflexible may not find midday voting a realistic option.
SAVE Our Votes and Fair Elections Legal Network expect the SBE to address the issue at its meeting on
Thursday, July 24 at 2:30 pm at the State Board’s office at 151 West St, Annapolis. ###
GOVERNOR O’MALLEY FUNDS VOTING SYSTEM CHANGE
New, Less Expensive System Will Allow for Recounts
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 16, 2008
Robert Ferraro, Co-Director, SAVEourVotes.org (Columbia)
Save Our Votes (SOV) sent its congratulations to Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley today for including in his proposed budget for the next fiscal year funds for the purchase of a new voting system based on paper ballots counted by optical scanners in each precinct.
The Governor has long advocated replacing the state's paperless touch-screen system. His action today is supported by nearly two-thirds of Maryland voters, according to a recent statewide public opinion poll by Gonzales Research. [www.saveourvotes.org/releases]
"We are delighted that the Governor and the General Assembly have responded to the voters and moved forcefully to replace our risky system with one that will be both secure and cost-effective," Robert Ferraro, co-director of SOV said today.
The new system will allow voters to ensure that their votes are recorded as they intend to cast them, and provide a means for independent recounts, capabilities which are not possible with the current voting system. This change will bring Maryland into line with the many other states that have recently abandoned touch-screen voting in favor of voter-marked paper ballots counted by optical scanners. Florida expects to have optical scanners in place statewide before this year’s presidential election. California and Ohio have both enacted severe restrictions on the use of touch-screen voting machines after thorough reviews of their security and reliability.
SOV co-director Shelley Fudge said, "The new system will also provide special ballot-marking equipment in each precinct for voters unable to mark their ballots by hand."
SOV, a statewide grass-roots organization, has worked for the past two years with legislators, state officials and dozens of citizens’ groups throughout the state to bring about this change in the state's voting system. In April of last year, the General Assembly voted unanimously to replace the touch-screen system. Governor O'Malley signed the bill in May, and all that remained was for funding to be provided to make the change in time for the 2010 general election.
"Today's action, when adopted by the General Assembly in April, will reverse the soaring operating costs that the state and counties have experienced since adopting the touch-screen system," Rebecca Wilson, a co-director of SOV pointed out. "So, beginning in 2010, Maryland voters will not only be voting on a more secure, voter-verified system, but one that will save the taxpayers millions of dollars each year." (See www.saveourvotes.org for an analysis of voting system costs.) ###
Poll Shows Maryland Voters Favor Funding Switch to Paper Ballots 2 to 1;
Survey Finds Support Higher, 3 to 1, among Democrats and Independents
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 23, 2007
Robert Ferraro, Co-Director, SAVEourVotes.org (Columbia)
As the state legislature prepares for a special budget session to begin next week, a new poll released today shows overwhelming support among Maryland voters for funding the switch away from paperless electronic voting machines.
Survey participants were asked: “Last spring Maryland's General Assembly voted unanimously to switch from touch screen voting machines to a less expensive system that uses paper ballots counted by optical scanners. This would ensure that votes are recorded as voters intend, and make recounts possible. The change will happen in 2010, but only if funded in next year's budget. Do you think the Governor should, or should not, provide funding for this change?”
The survey revealed particularly strong support in some demographic groups, with 75% of Independents, 74% of Democrats, and 71% of African Americans favoring funding the switch. A majority of voters in every region of the state endorse the change.
"Election expenses have soared to nearly 10 times their cost before we began using the touch-screen voting machines,” stated SAVE our Votes Co-Director, Rebecca Wilson. “This move to a less expensive, more reliable voting system is fiscally responsible as well as highly popular. It's just common sense."
Maryland’s switch to paper ballots is part of a national trend as election day problems and one prestigious study after another confirm the risks of paperless electronic voting. Florida will change to optical scanners statewide by 2008 after touch-screen machines lost 18,000 votes last fall in a hotly contested congressional race that was decided by less than 400 votes. California has decertified most of its touch-screen voting machines and will use them only under stringent restrictions next year. New Mexico switched in 2006, and a recent study by the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project showed high satisfaction with the change among both voters and election workers.
The survey was paid for by SAVE our Votes, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, grassroots organization working for Secure, Accessible, Verifiable Elections in Maryland. The survey results are posted in full at www.saveourvotes.org. ###
Election Watchdog Group Monitors Baltimore City Primary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 10, 2007
Robert Ferraro, Co-Director, SAVEourVotes.org (Columbia)
SAVE our Votes, a grassroots election integrity organization, will monitor the Baltimore City Primary Election on Tuesday, September 11, 2007. Citizen volunteers, working as election judges and credentialed poll watchers for candidates, will be checking for compliance with election laws, rules and procedures, and be on the lookout for any problems with the paperless, electronic voting system.
“Numerous studies of Maryland’s Diebold touchscreen voting system have shown it to be very vulnerable to undetectable tampering, and California recently decertified similar machines for this reason,” said Shelley Fudge, Co-Director of the Columbia, MD based organization. “Maryland’s Board of Elections relies on administrative procedures to protect these machines from tampering, so strict compliance with these rules is extremely important.”
Voters in Tuesday’s primary election are urged to be attentive to any glitches or strange behavior from the touchscreen voting machines and to insist that election judges record any problems in their election day logs. Past monitoring efforts around the state have documented various types of problems such as candidates missing from the ballot, difficulty selecting a candidate’s name with the screen touch, and machines freezing up in the middle of voting. All of these problems could cause an inaccurate recording of voters’ choices.
Similar problems in the November, 2006, election in Sarasota County, FL, resulted in 18,000 votes going unrecorded in an hotly contested race for the US Congress that was decided by less than 400 votes. With some very close races expected in this primary election, even seemingly small problems could alter the outcomes.
“The overall, and presently unsolvable problem, however, is that Maryland’s paperless system cannot be audited for accuracy”, said Robert Ferraro, another Co-Director of the group. “If, by fraud or malfunction, the fully electronic system fails to accurately record or tally votes, we have no way of recovering lost or changed votes.”
This glaring deficiency will be remedied when Maryland changes to a paper-based voting system in 2010. The General Assembly mandated this change unanimously earlier this year. Governor O’Malley recently pledged to fund this change of voting system on a Baltimore radio show last week. A two-minute audio clip of his remarks is available at the SAVEourVotes.org website. ###
Governor O'Malley Pledges to 'Do Everything in My Power' to Fund Paper Ballots Bill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 10, 2007
CONTACT: Robert Ferraro, Co-Director, SAVEourVotes.org (Columbia)
Responding to a question from a caller on a Baltimore talk radio show on September 6, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley reaffirmed his commitment to moving the state from electronic touch-screen voting machines to an election system that uses voter-marked paper ballots counted with optical scanners by 2010.
Appearing as a guest on the Marc Steiner Show on WYPR radio, Gov. O'Malley said, “I think, given what other Marylanders are sacrificing for democracy abroad, we certainly have the ability to invest in protecting our election system here at home — protecting democracy in Maryland. So that's a promise I intend to be able to keep; and I'm going to do everything in my power to do so.”
Last April the Maryland House and Senate unanimously passed a bill requiring that State elections be held using paper ballots beginning with the 2010 election. But a provision in the law renders it null and void unless the purchase of the necessary equipment is funded in the next State budget, which the Governor’s office is currently preparing.
Public opinion polls show that 69% of Maryland voters want a paper record of their votes, and 57% would prefer to use optically scanned paper ballots compared with 41% who favor the paperless touch-screen voting machines. Nineteen of the state’s 24 election jurisdictions used optical scan systems before switching to touch-screen voting machines in 2004, so the equipment is already familiar to voters as well as to elections administrators and poll workers. All absentee and provisional ballots are currently cast and counted this way throughout the state.
Maryland’s switch to paper ballots is part of a national trend as one prestigious study after another confirms the riskiness of using direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines. California recently decertified most of its DREs and imposed strict limitations on those in use for disability access, requiring that all votes cast on them be hand-tallied solely from the paper print-outs already mandated on all their machines. Florida decided to move to paper statewide by 2008 after DREs failed to record 18,000 votes last November in a hotly contested Congressional race that was decided by less than 400 votes.
New Mexico was the first state to eliminate its DREs and implement optical scan systems statewide less than a year before the 2006 elections. A recent study of New Mexico’s 2006 elections by the CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project reported a high satisfaction rate with the new system among both voters and poll workers. The study found that, “Poll workers gave the new process particularly high marks on reliability, privacy, and ease of use” and that “over eight in 10 voters (81.9%) voters rated their voting experience excellent or good.” The full report is available at . A transcript and an audio file of the Governor’s remarks. ###
CONTACT: Robert Ferraro 301-661-2989, Co-Director, SAVEourVotes.org (Columbia, Md.)
In a letter dated July 2, 2007, SAVE Our Votes, a non-partisan citizen organization working for verifiable elections in Maryland, called on the Montgomery County Ethics Commission to investigate the appearance of County Election Director, Margaret Jurgensen, in a Diebold Election Systems marketing brochure. Ms. Jurgensen’s photo appears in the brochure along with comments praising the Diebold voting stations that have been used in Montgomery County since 2002. Elections officials from Georgia, Kansas and California also appear in the brochure.
As with the recently reported controversy over State Board of Elections Administrator Linda Lamone’s appearance in a Diebold marketing brochure, the appearance of Ms. Jurgensen seems to be a clear violation of the County’s Ethics law on misuse of prestige of office.
(Montgomery County Code Chapter 19A, Ethics 21, Sec. 19A-14) “A public employee must not intentionally use the prestige of office for private gain or the gain of another.”
“Although the brochure seems to be several years old, it is very important for the Ethics Commission to investigate and issue a ruling as to whether this type of conduct by the Election Director is permissible under County law,” said Robert Ferraro, Co-Director of SAVE Our Votes. “This brochure illustrates a disturbing trend that voting rights advocates have observed nationwide of many elections officials being too cozy with voting machine vendors,” he added.
“As Maryland prepares to transition from paperless electronic voting to a paper-ballot voting system, how is the public to have confidence in the impartiality of the procurement process if elections officials are helping to promote products from a particular company?” said Shelley Fudge, another Co-Director of SAVE Our Votes.
Both Ms. Jurgensen and Ms. Lamone have been staunch defenders of the Diebold paperless, touchscreen voting systems, despite repeated reports from independent computer scientists that the systems are susceptible to fraud because of severe security vulnerabilities. The lack of a paper record makes recounts or audits of election results impossible.
The Ethics Commission has put the issue on the agenda for its July 24, 2007 meeting in Rockville.
CONTACT: Robert Ferraro 301-661-2989, Co-Director, SAVEourVotes.org (Columbia)
Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation Thursday that calls for replacing Maryland’s paperless touch-screen voting system with a system that will provide a paper record to allow for recounts of close races. The “Voter-Verifiable Paper Records” bill, SB 392, was sponsored by Senator Edward Kasemeyer (D-Baltimore and Howard Counties) and passed the Senate unanimously. A companion bill, HB18, sponsored by Delegate Sheila Hixson (D-Montgomery County) passed the House unanimously both last year and this year. The transition will occur before the 2010 elections.
“This is a great victory for Maryland’s voters, who overwhelmingly favor a paper record of their votes,” said Robert Ferraro, a Co-Director of SAVE Our Votes, a grass-roots citizens’ group working for Secure, Accessible, Verifiable Elections in Maryland.
Public opinion polls conducted last year showed that two out of three Maryland voters want a paper record of their votes. Most prefer an optical scan system where voters mark paper ballots, either by hand or with the assistance of a ballot-marking machine, which are then counted in the polling place by optical scanners. Nineteen of Maryland’s 24 counties used optical-scan systems before state law required them to switch to touch-screen machines over the past five years.
Maryland’s new law is part of a national trend away from paperless voting. After the loss of 18,000 electronic votes in Sarasota’s 2006 election left a congressional seat in dispute, Florida’s governor announced plans to replace its touch-screen voting machines with optical scanners before the 2008 elections. A federal bill currently making its way through the House of Representatives, the “Voter Confidence & Increased Accessibility Act” (HR 811), would eliminate paperless voting by the 2008 general election and provide funding to replace equipment that does not comply with the law.
Maryland’s bill requires funding by next year’s legislative session, through either state or federal dollars, for implementation to be accomplished on schedule. But the economic benefits of optical scan systems are especially attractive in a time of fiscal deficits when the new administration is looking for ways to reduce government waste to balance the budget. Studies have shown a large jump in election expenses when counties across the nation switched to paperless electronic voting.
“We look forward to working with the governor to find funding for this bill,” said SAVE Our Votes Co-Director Rebecca Wilson. “In this time of tight budgets, we don't have the luxury of operating a voting system that is as fiscally wasteful as Maryland's current system is.”
“Gov. O’Malley is a strong advocate for making government more transparent and accountable,” said Co-Director Shelley Fudge. “This legislation will move Maryland a huge step in that direction.” ###
Maryland’s General Assembly last night passed legislation that calls for replacing the paperless touch-screen voting system currently in use with a system that will provide a paper record to allow for recounts of close races. The transition will occur before the 2010 elections.
“This is a great victory for Maryland’s voters. It is a giant leap toward ensuring that our votes can be counted exactly as we cast them,” said Robert Ferraro, a Co-Director of SAVE Our Votes, a grass-roots citizens’ group working for Secure, Accessible, Verifiable Elections in Maryland.
Public opinion polls conducted last year showed that two out of three Maryland voters want a paper record of their vote, and the vast majority prefers an optical scan system. Voters mark paper ballots, either by hand or with the assistance of a ballot-marking machine, which are then counted in the polling place by optical scanners. Nineteen of Maryland’s 24 counties used optical-scan systems before state law required them to switch to touch-screen machines over the past five years.
The economic benefits of optical scan systems are especially attractive in a time of fiscal deficits when the new administration is looking for ways to reduce government waste before resorting to other revenue sources, such as tax increases, to balance the budget. Studies have shown a huge increase in election expenses as counties across the nation have moved to paperless electronic voting.
Since the implementation of touch-screen voting machines, Maryland’s election budget has swelled from $5 million annually to more than $27 million per year. At the same time the State Board of Elections staff has grown from five employees to its current size of 38.5 FTE positions. The state’s contract with Diebold Elections Systems, Inc. to provide support for the 19,000 touch-screen machines is so complex that a project management firm oversees it, at a cumulative cost of nearly $10 million by the end of 2008.
“Not only can we afford to make this change, we can't afford not to. In a time of tight budgets, we don't have the luxury of operating a voting system that is as fiscally wasteful as Maryland's current system,” said Co-Director Rebecca Wilson.
The bill also provides a means for voters with disabilities to mark their paper ballots. “This legislation is the strongest in the nation in protecting access for voters with disabilities,” said Co-Director Shelley Fudge.
GROUPS URGE SENATE TO PASS NEW PAPER TRAIL BILL
Urge House to Enact Before Session Ends
After “recommitting” the bill last week, the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs (EHEA) Committee successfully submitted a newly amended paper trail bill to the Senate Thursday. The new SB392 is likely to pass the full Senate today.
These new amendments remove the possibility of the State Board of Election certifying an electronic verification system, a move that election integrity activists see as critical. “We could not allow the previous bill to go forward with that option,” said Shazia Anwar, Director of TrueVoteMD, an election integrity group with over 3000 members statewide. “We can live with these amendments.”
The new amendments ensure that any new voting system certified for use must include a voter verified paper record. These changes would require an optically scannable paper ballot marked by hand or with the help of an assistive marking device.
“We are delighted that the Senate is now listening to the two-thirds of Maryland voters who want a paper trail when they vote,” said Shelley Fudge, Co-director of SAVEourVotes. “This bill would not only secure our elections, but would also significantly reduce the expense of operating them, which is critical with our current budget deficit. Studies have shown that operating costs for optical scanning equipment are 30% to 40% lower than for our current touchscreen machines.”
Both groups had urged passage of HB18 as amended, which passed the House unanimously on March 18 and crossed over before the deadline, because it contained three essential components: 1) required voter verifiability; 2) made the paper ballot the official vote record for audits and recounts; 3) required mandatory audits of election results to confirm accuracy.
“We hope the House of Delegates quickly resolves the discrepancies between SB392 and HB18 if the Senate bill passes today,” said Ms. Anwar. “Maryland needs this legislation in place if the Governor has to find a way to fund it in time for 2010.”
Both groups stressed that both HB18 and the current SB392 reflect a significant but acceptable compromise between the legislature, concerned about a growing fiscal deficit, and election integrity activists. The compromise includes delaying new system implementation until 2010 (instead of in time for the 2008 Presidential election) and making implementation null and void unless funded in the Governor’s budget next year.
“With only three days left in this session, there are still many hoops that this legislation must go through in order for the bill to reach the Governor’s desk for his signature,” said Ms. Anwar in a statement to the group’s members. “We urge all citizens concerned about protecting our voting rights to tell their legislators to support the current paper trail bills.” ###
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 23, 2007 CONTACT: Shelley Fudge 301-580-9224 or Robert Ferraro 301-661-2989 [ PRINTABLE PDF]
VOTING RIGHTS ADVOCATES APPLAUD MD. HOUSE PASSAGE OF
REAL VOTER-VERIFIED PAPER TRAIL, URGE SENATE TO DO THE SAME
On March 21, the Maryland House unanimously passed, for the second year in a row, legislation to meet voters’ demands to replace the state’s current unreliable electronic voting system with a secure system that provides for a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) and optical scanning. Unfortunately, the Senate’s now considering amending its version (SB 392) to remove all the protections the House bill requires.
“Polls show two of every three Maryland voters are troubled and want a paper trail,” said Shelley Fudge of Save Our Votes. “The House deserves high praise for again listening to the voters. Now the voters are counting on our Senators to do the same.”
As introduced by Sen. Edward Kasemeyer with an impressive 37 co-sponsors, SB-392 had virtually the same vital provisions as HB-18 (sponsored by Del. Sheila Hixson and passed unanimously March 21). But the EHEA Committee is considering amendments to remove those very requirements that proponents and experts, including Dr. Avi Rubin of Johns Hopkins, have testified are absolutely necessary to detect and recover from vote fraud, security breaches, and technical failures. Such incidents have shaken voters’ confidence and plagued recent elections in Maryland and the nation. For example, the U.S. Congress seat remains undecided for Sarasota, Fla., where 18,000 votes were not recorded in November 2006.
“The proposed amendments to the Senate bill do not require voter verification, paper ballots, or audits,” said Robert Ferraro of Save Our Votes. “That completely defeats the purpose of a voter-verified paper audit trail bill, and makes it not worth the paper it’s printed on.”
While opponents of the VVPAT requirements blame the states budget crisis, lack of funding is not a real obstacle because replacing our touch-screen voting machines with a paper ballot and optical scan system would save the state millions each year from the beginning, according to Rebecca Wilson of Save Our Votes. “Studies of comparable purchases in other states have shown that Maryland would save $3-5 million annually in operating expenses,” she said. “A $20-million purchase financed over five years would cost $4 million each year. If the purchase cost were split 50/50 with counties, as with our current system, the state’s annual share would be about $2 million. So Maryland would save $1-3 million each of the first five years and $4-5 million thereafter on annual election expenditures -- savings that would ease the state’s fiscal pressures.”
Save Our Votes and other election integrity advocates urge Senators to support the original intent of SB 392, pass legislation similar to the House bill, and restore election integrity in Maryland.###
Recommended References: *Reports, News Articles, list of election integrity organizations and more at www.SAVEourVotes.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:SEPT. 25, 2006
CONTACT: Robert Ferraro, 301-661-2989 or, Shelley Fudge, 301-580-9224
SBE Response to Primary Problems is Inadequate
Election Integrity Group Releases Its Own 9-Point Plan to Address Issues Overlooked by Elections Administrator’s Proposal
Columbia, MD, Sept. 25 – SAVE Our Votes, a non-partisan voting rights organization, today criticized State Elections Administrator Linda Lamone’s analysis of the problems that marred Maryland’s Primary Election, saying that her proposed solutions fail to address many serious issues.
“The best way to prevent the serious problems that occurred in the Primary Election is to set aside the touch-screen voting machines and use optically scannable paper ballots in the November General Election,” said founding member Robert Ferraro. "However, if the precarious touch-screen system will be used again, it would be irresponsible not to institute these nine simple measures."
The recommended remedies include providing enough provisional ballots in each polling place to allow every voter to cast a ballot in an emergency, as well as issuing clear guidelines about what constitutes an emergency and how to respond appropriately if scarcity or unavailability of equipment causes unacceptably long wait times.
“Election judges had not been prepared for a malfunction of the magnitude of Montgomery County’s failure to deliver Voter Access Cards,” said Shelley Fudge, another founding member of the group. “Unable to reach the county elections officials for instructions, they did not know how to proceed.”
The report also questions the effectiveness of security measures instituted in light of numerous reports recently released that document the vulnerability of touch-screen voting equipment to fraud. It calls for clear mandates about how to handle equipment on which security breaches are discovered, clarifying both when to pull equipment from service and how the votes already cast on suspect machines will be regarded, since there is no possibility of detecting many dangerous types of tampering.
Other recommendations include setting aside of the electronic pollbooks, investigating inaccurate information in e-pollbook records such as incorrect party affiliation, and informing voters about how to check and correct their voter registration records.
Additional measures suggested are more aggressive oversight of the screening and training of voting equipment technicians and better education for election judges in the use of the Visually Impaired Ballot Stations.###
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