The Maryland State Board of Elections allowed Diebold Election Systems
to operate its touch-screen voting machines during the state's 2002 gubernatorial
election and the 2004 presidential primaries before the state agency actually
certified the controversial machines, according to recently disclosed documents.
That is a violation of state law, according to Linda Schade, executive director
of TrueVoteMD.org, an election integrity
Schade discovered the document among thousands of others she recently acquired
through a lawsuit filed against the Maryland State Board of Elections in 2004.
After almost two years of public records requests and attorney wrangling, she
received four boxes filled with e-mail conversations, faxes and contracts between
the elections office and Diebold.
"So far, we've only gone through one box and have just started the second
box," she said Wednesday. "We expect to find much more."
Meanwhile, Maryland Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich Jr. delivered a scathing
letter to the State Board of Elections Wednesday, lashing out at the agency
for intending to use Diebold's systems for the upcoming 2006 election while
California and Pennsylvania have either decertified or refused to certify the
voting systems, which recent studies show can easily be hacked to manipulate
"I no longer have confidence in the State Board of Elections' ability
to conduct fair and accurate elections in 2006," the Republican governor
stated in the four-page letter.
At the center of both controversies is Linda Lamone, administrator of the State
Board of Elections, who did not immediately return several calls seeking comment
over the last two days.
Upsets and unusual outcomes
In November 2002, Lamone, a Democrat, allowed Diebold to operate its machines
in four counties for the state gubernatorial election. That was when Ehrlich
became the first Republican governor to be elected in 36 years in what had always
been known as a solidly Democratic state.
That was also the year when a Republican political newcomer, a self-described
"nobody," ousted a veteran Democratic state senator in what The Baltimore
Sun described as "one of the most remarkable election upsets in recent
Maryland political history."
After serving for several decades, Democratic House Speaker Casper R. Taylor
Jr. lost his Allegany County seat to LeRoy E. Myers. Allegany County was one
of the four counties where Diebold machines were used that year.
In March 2004, during the presidential primary elections, Maryland became one
of only two states in the country to use Diebold voting machines throughout
the entire state. A month later, Schade filed her lawsuit in an attempt to prevent
Diebold from running the upcoming November 2004 presidential elections, accusing
Lamone in the suit of "recklessly certifying" the machines for the
But at the time, Schade had no idea that Lamone had not even bothered certifying
the machines. In fact, the machines did not get certified until the following
month. The machines were finally certified May 20, 2004.
Though now certified, machines still may not meet FEC standards
And the fact that they were eventually certified does not even place them in
compliance with the law, said Douglas W. Jones, an associate professor of computer
science at the University of Iowa, who has been studying flaws within computer
voting machines since the 1990s.
"The question is, should it have even been certified in the first place?"
he asked. "My reading of the 1990 and 2002 standards suggests that use
of the software from the PCMCIA cards should not have been in use in the first
Jones is referring to the standards put forth by the Federal Election Commission
in those years, which the states have to legally abide by in order to receive
An easily altered paper trail
The Diebold voting machines used in Maryland since 2002 use a common PCMCIA
card, which record the numbers of votes cast on that particular machine during
an election. When the polls close, election workers are suppose to print out
results from each machine before shipping the PCMCIA card to a the main elections
Just last month, computer expert Harri Hursti showed Florida election officials
in Leon County how easily these cards can be manipulated in a study now known
as the "Hursti Hack."
"What Harri discovered was that using a laptop and a PCMCIA card reader,
which you can buy on the Internet, he could change the contents of the card,"
Jones said. "He could reprogram the card to print anything he wanted and
it only took seconds."
The contents on the card, which are shipped off to the main elections office,
remain unchanged, but the printout, the only paper trail produced by the machines,
end up altered, he said.
"And the paper trail is what most people would look at to verify an election,"
Skyrocketing costs and financial incentives
Despite the obvious flaws and election law violations, Lamone still managed
to run up a multimillion dollar budget to maintain the Diebold machines, according
to the governor's letter.
"The cost of Maryland's Diebold voting machines has skyrocketed as our
confidence in the system has plummeted," he said.
"At the time, the General Assembly's fiscal note for House Bill 1457 estimated
that the total cost would be $36,890,000. The actual cost, which has been financed
by the state by the State Treasurer was $65,564,674 – an almost 78 percent
increase from the original cost estimate.
"However, this misjudgment pales in comparison to the 1000 percent increase
for estimates of the annual maintenance costs for the system," the letter
Schade, who ran for state legislator in 2002 under the Green Party and has
spent the last two years researching the situation, said that Lamone authorized
more than $111 million in contracts to Diebold since 2002. She also believes
there is a conflict of interest between Lamone and Diebold because for the past
two years, Lamone has been president of the National Association of State Election
Directors, which approves all voting machines before they are used.
"You can imagine the financial incentives that are used to cozy up to
NASED," she said.
The document, which shows the date of Diebold's certification, can
be found here.
The report date is the date the machines and software were certified.