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Late Changes in Election Procedures Could Cause Chaos
Updated: Friday, Aug. 27, 2004 - 7:24 AM

Associated Press Writer

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Any late changes in election procedures, including allowing voters to request paper ballots, could cause chaos at the polls and open up new avenues to voter fraud, two Maryland election officials testified Thursday.

But a witness for critics of the state's touch-screen voting machines, while agreeing that time is a problem, said some remedies could be implemented that would reduce the possibility of fraud and increase voter confidence in the outcome of the November election.

The conflicting testimony came on the second day of a hearing in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in a suit filed by TrueVoteMD seeking to force state and local election officials to implement changes that they say would make the computerized voting system less susceptible to fraud.

Opponents of the electronic voting machines have given up hope of making major changes in the system or implementing an alternative system using paper ballots and optical scan machines.

But they asked Judge Joseph P. Manck to require election officials to provide paper ballots at all polling places that could be used by voters who do not trust the touch-screen machines to record their votes accurately.

They also asked for some additional security measures, including requiring the state election board to install Microsoft security patches on central computers that will tabulate election results.

Linda Lamone, state elections administrator, and Catherine Davis, election laws administrator for Allegany County, said there isn't enough time to make any significant changes in procedures before the general election.

"It just would impose an enormous administrative burden, especially on the local boards," Lamone said. "It would be very difficult to do that."

Davis said adding paper ballots to the mix carries the possibility "of causing great havoc in the polling places."

It would put a heavy burden on poll workers, who would need additional training and would have the additional burden of handing out paper ballots on election day, collecting them, making sure voters didn't cast ballots twice and then counting the paper ballots, Davis said.

"I do believe it would be more than we can expect from them (poll workers)," she said.

Michael Wertheimer of RABA Technologies, a consultant which uncovered serious security flaws in the Diebold machines when it conducted a study for the state legislature, asked Manck to order the State Board of Elections to install security patches offered by Microsoft. Without them, the computers that tally votes are open to hackers who could disrupt the election software, he said.

Election officials say the patches are not needed because the computers are not connected to the Internet. But Wertheimer said hackers could use a dial-up port to break into the computers.

Lamone and Davis defended the Diebold system, with Lamone saying she never considered recommending that the machines be decertified for use in the 2004 elections despite three reports - two paid for by the state - that said there were serious security problems.

Allegany County used the touch-screen machines for the 2002 elections and again in the March primary this year.

Davis said voters she talked to loved them, especially blind people who can vote using headphones and don't have to depend on someone else to mark their ballots. Elderly voters also found the machines easier to use than the lever machines formerly used in Allegany County, she said.

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