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Securing Early Voting

Democrats and Republicans in Maryland don't agree about much when it comes to the subject of early voting.

But they do agree that if early voting is to take place, there needs to be some way to ensure that people don't wander from precinct to precinct, casting multiple votes.

State election officials believe the solution to that potential security gap lies with $13.million of computer hardware known as electronic poll books.

The plan is to have e-poll books at every polling station, and once someone votes, the electronic list is updated to show the precinct referees that the person has cast a ballot and should not be given another opportunity chance.

But before the state goes ahead and buys the early voting book system, it must be certified by the state Board of Elections. And some members of that board continue to voice skepticism about the ability of the that system to function properly.

One of the board's Republican members, Joan Beck, has been particularly reluctant to approve the purchase of equipment that has never been used in a statewide election.

"We're talking about $13.million here, and if they don't function the way they're supposed to, it's not going to help us prevent fraud," Beck said in an interview Friday.

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State election officials have plowed ahead in spite of concerns raised by Beck and another Republican board member, Susan Widerman. Earlier this month, election staffers contacted board members by e-mail, alerting them that they needed to move ahead quickly and therefore had to conduct a vote on certification by telephone.

The telephone vote on certification was approved by Mark Davis, the assistant attorney general assigned to the board, on the condition that the vote not occur during a conference call, because that would trigger the need to notify the public.

According to the election administrators, all five board members endorsed the poll books. The administrators said the telephone vote was enough to certify the machines and move ahead with the purchase. But when the board finally did meet on the subject last week, Beck says said, she raised strong objections.

"It's not a good way to do things," she said of the vote by phone. "I think my fellow board members were uncomfortable with the process."

So have the e-poll books been certified? Will the purchase go forward?

Election Board Chairman Gilles W. Burger acknowledges that remains somewhat of an open question.

"The process is continuing, but it's not a done deal," Burger said. "We're going to iron out the certification issue with some follow-up with the staff. That's the way we left it."

And if they cannot purchase the machines, how can they ensure a secure election?

"I am confident we'll be able to iron out these lingering issues," Burger said.

Matt Mosk

By Phyllis Jordan  |  May 27, 2006; 7:13 AM ET
 
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Comments

Doesn't a purchase of this magnitude by a commission have to be approved by the Board of Public Works? Wasn't that the controversy in the first place--at least the unreported one. Any chance we'll see the WaPo comment on that or look into it?

Posted by: Bryan | May 27, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Yes seriously the Post has been MIA on this issue. I know that the voting issue is complicated and can give you an ice cream headache. But can honestly think of any issue more important the the integrity of or democratic way of life? Anyone? :)

Posted by: Alex | May 27, 2006 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I've already rented a bus to go from Allegheny County to the Eastern Shore in teh days leading up to the election. Since they don't check ID's, I plan checking the phone book at a local gas station in each county and pull out different names for everyone on the bus to vote under. Chances are I will be able to find enough names of people who did not vote early. I figure I can wait until election day to vote under my own name. It should be a lot of fun, but it sure will wreck havoc with those people on election day who will be recorded as already voting when they show up at the polls.

Posted by: Fred | May 27, 2006 3:23 PM | Report abuse

For those who want more details, the plan is to have about 30 people on the bus. We are going to avoid our own home county, to avoid running into somebody we know. SO that leaves 22 counties plus Baltimore City. I figure in some of the larger counties, we can vote a two or three locations without being detected. So assume we can get to at least thirty locations with thirty votes at each spot, that will give our candidate a good 900-vote head start. I hopefully will be able to sign up a few more busloads. We could have this election won for our candidate before any of us actually "officially" vote on Election Day.

Posted by: Fred | May 27, 2006 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Also, and I realize they are not checking ID's, but I will enough diversity among the people on the bus to ensure that whatever person's name we use will match the ethnicity of the person pretending to vote for them. Lord knows we don't want to make the mistake of having someone with a Russian accent trying to vote under an Italian name....

Posted by: Fred | May 27, 2006 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Fred, if Mary Poppins successfully voted in Ohio then I'm sure you won't have any problems--sadly.

Isn't Diebold the company producing these security measures? The same Diebold that many of the very proponents of early voting were so vehemently outspoken against?

Posted by: Bryan | May 27, 2006 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I am not opposed to early voting, in fact many states have implemented it successfully, I just wish MD hadn't done such a half-a**ed job. All of these important decisions should have been made months (if not years) ago. They shouldn't be scrambling six months before elections to get everything in place. Furthermore, as someone who works for a software company I can tell you that things don't always go as planned with software(even with highly tested software like Microsoft crazy things can happen). How do they know this e-book system is secure? How can it be properly tested if it's not even implemented and there are only 6 months left? I wish this had been done the right way...

Posted by: Mr. K | May 28, 2006 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Re: Mr.K "How do they know this e-book system is secure? How can it be properly tested if it's not even implemented and there are only 6 months left? I wish this had been done the right way..."

They don't. The State Elections Dictator... sorry Administrator, could not even get her facts straight on how these things work when she first put in her request of the 13 million dollars. She sent a letter to the treasurer saying they don't do a live update of the statewide voter registration system. The next day she told the Board of Public Works that they do live updates. Now she is saying that the do live updates but only at the county level. A concern I have is that this means that thanks to another idiotic state law that allows people to vote in any county on election day, I could go from county to county and vote in each county and these 13 million dollar touch screen laptops will not stop me. These things were less needed to do early voting and more for the "Vote Anywhere" law.

The MD Dem's are saying that all this is done in the interest of increasing voter turnout. However there is not much statistical evidence to prove that this would increase turnout.

Posted by: Alex | May 29, 2006 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Re: Mr.K "How do they know this e-book system is secure? How can it be properly tested if it's not even implemented and there are only 6 months left? I wish this had been done the right way..."

They don't. The State Elections Dictator... sorry Administrator, could not even get her facts straight on how these things work when she first put in her request of the 13 million dollars. She sent a letter to the treasurer saying they don't do a live update of the statewide voter registration system. The next day she told the Board of Public Works that they do live updates. Now she is saying that the do live updates but only at the county level. A concern I have is that this means that thanks to another idiotic state law that allows people to vote in any county on election day, I could go from county to county and vote in each county and these 13 million dollar touch screen laptops will not stop me. These things were less needed to do early voting and more for the "Vote Anywhere" law.

The MD Dem's are saying that all this is done in the interest of increasing voter turnout. However there is not much statistical evidence to prove that this would increase turnout.

Posted by: Alex | May 29, 2006 10:09 AM | Report abuse


www.wsws.org
www.takingaim.info

http://www.unknownnews.org/0606020509comvot.html

Ohio election fraud investigated ... by the man who caused it

by M.R. Kropko, Associated Press

May 9, 2006

CLEVELAND - Democrats called Monday for Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to remove himself from an investigation into what went wrong with the primary election in Ohio's largest county.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said Blackwell should step aside because his office is responsible for the rules that govern county election boards that had scattered problems last Tuesday, including poll workers who did not know how to turn on new electronic voting machines. Blackwell, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, faces too many conflicts of interest to properly oversee the probe, Redfern said.

"It's a silly request," said James Lee, a spokesman with the secretary of state's office. "The people of Ohio twice elected Ken Blackwell to serve as secretary of state. He will continue to serve."

Trimmed here by PJ

Posted by: che | May 29, 2006 5:16 PM | Report abuse

So much for reposting copyrighted material there Che. Would you like me to dig up the Mary Poppins stories for you? How about the guy registering fake voters and being paid in crack cocaine?

The real problem here is that not only is it now illegal to ask for identificaiton before voting, but we're also trusting an untested 'secure' voting system made by a company that we've heard a lot of recent criticism over the lack of security measures in their regular voting process. So let's take the company being criticized for flawed voting technology and have them administer security for voting? Brillant, simply brillant.

This is an issue that the PEOPLE OF MARYLAND should decide and only the people. Why are the Democrats afraid of letting the people of Maryland decide whether they want this new system by referendum?

Posted by: Bryan | May 29, 2006 6:33 PM | Report abuse

It's a 100 million dollar mistake on the Democrats part already, (that's how much they have spent on these voting machines.) If we were to continue down the Diebold road by the end of their contract in 2014, they say it will be $132 million. However that did not include the extra cost of the electronic pollbooks $13 m. And also bear in mind that originally the total cost was projected closer to $60 m, when the contracts were signed in '01.

If I had to speculate as too the true end cost of these machines, this is assuming that in 2014 most of the 20,000+, 13-year-old computers will still be operational. I would guess the cost to end up being closer to $200 million dollars.

PS the state of Maryland has picked a group, Freeman Craft and McGregor inc. to test the voting systems in Maryland. Check out the blog info on Paul Craft the guy who founded the group, http://www.bbvforums.org/forums/messages/73/17248.html .

Posted by: Alex | May 30, 2006 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Fred - you know you would go to jail for that, right?

Posted by: Al | May 30, 2006 10:13 AM | Report abuse

People act as if early voting will be the cause of increased voter fraud and the Maryland system has previously been "bullet proof." It hasn't, as any poll worker could tell you. Maryland has not removed a voter from the rolls in one county when the voter registers in another county, even if the registration form says the voter was previously registered elsewhere in Maryland. Voters who move could easily vote in both their old and new precinct with the likelihood of discovery being very low. If early voting is properly managed, a simple pen and paper system could prevent a person from voting more than once. Maryland has something called a provisional ballot, and when an individual votes early and then tries to vote later, the absence of the voter card from the book could cause a ballot to become provisional. When the card is found among those who voted early, the result will be the removal of the provisional ballot. Early voting really has only one major effect - increased numbers of people voting, not because people are voting more than once but because more working people will have an opportunity to get to the polls and vote.
What's wrong with helping workers vote?

Posted by: Clare | May 30, 2006 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Clare, early voting isn't provisional voting ans I'm confused why you'd choose to mislead people in that sense. I have volunteered at the polls before as have many in family over the years. Previously we could actually ask for voter identification--now that is ILLEGAL. Why is it illegal to ask someone to prove they're the person voting?

What rolls are you checking against with early voting on the same day if you can vote in any county?

This new security system is being administered by whom? Diebold?

The only affect early voting has is to INCREASE FRAUD.

How hard is it to get an absentee ballot in MD? Let's be serious--you have to 'mark' a reason. A valid reason includes the possibility that you may be out of state or unable to get to the polls. I always get an absentee to be on the safe side as once I almost did miss an election because of travel.

The easiest answer to those who have to work is taking away the 'reason' box on absentee ballots. This allows someone to not even have to leave their house to vote. How is that not the simplest method out there???

And let's talk about another issue of early voting--local ballot initiatives. If you vote outside of your precinct you can NOT vote on local issues and will not be presented with that opportunity. How exactly is this more equitable?

Posted by: Bryan | May 30, 2006 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Early voting has been provisional voting in almost every other state that has done it. MD and GA are going to do it now as direct voting on a DRE, IMHO a stupid idea, if it was provisional and we could verify the person was legit after that would be better. If fraud is successfully committed during early voting how they want to do it, then that will be an added vote, because you cannot tell which vote is which on a DRE. Also you no longer need a reason to vote absentee, thanks to the absentee voting on demand bill that was passed.

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