Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Mothball the Machines

If Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has his way, Maryland will ditch the electronic voting machines that contributed to last week's primary day chaos and go back to paper ballots for November's election.

"When in doubt go paper, go low-tech," Ehrlich said today as he called for scrapping the $106 million dollar electronic voting apparatus the state has in place.

But getting his way may not be that easy. He would have to get approval from the General Assembly, which rejected a similar idea this spring. And with just seven weeks to go til election day, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert) said it "cannot happen, it will not happen."

Ehrlich said that if necessary he would call a special session of the Maryland General Assembly to allow the state to change voting systems.

But Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) dismissed the idea of a special session, saying elections officials should focus on fixing the current voting system.

"We paid millions," Miller said. "These are state-of-the-art machines."

Christian Davenport and Ann E. Marimow

By Phyllis Jordan  |  September 20, 2006; 4:43 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Steele Backer Courts Mfume
Next: Radio Ad Flap


Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 5:57 PM | Report abuse

after all the problems last week and so many people not voting at all because even when they came to the polls were turned away because the polls weren't ready, I'd be glad to have a ballot that I KNOW I can use whether that's paper ballots or what.

Just because these machines were expensive doesn't mean they are what we should use to elect our leaders.

The most important part of any election is that it is done fairly and is trusted by the people. After last week, I have no faith in the system at all.

Posted by: MoCo Voter | September 20, 2006 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Whatever system we end up with, I hope we can use them in November to throw out the bums responsible. I would even consider voting (against my party) for Erlich, since, at least in this area, he shows some semblence of sanity. Maybe because of the brouhaha we'll get to find out better where our various representatives stand on this issue, so we may consider that when voting.

Posted by: antibozo | September 20, 2006 7:54 PM | Report abuse

One bum responsible, Paula Hollinger, is already gone. Another, Sheila Hixon, is virtually assured re-election.

Posted by: Marylander | September 20, 2006 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Sure. That's a smart political move on Ehrlich's part to call for something that's virtually impossible to do in the seven weeks before the general election. It's a win-win situation for him. How about trying to fix the problem, instead of scrapping it. More comprehensive training for the election judges is a first step. More time spent testing the voting machines, electronic poll books and VACs is another. There's no confusion over early voting this time around, eating up the election officials time. Be proactive and educate yourself on the candidates AND the voting process before November 7 so you know what to expect and what you are entitled to. Let's learn from our mistakes in the primary and fix what we have. It's a good system. I don't notice much news about the counties that did not have problems.

Posted by: Pebo | September 20, 2006 9:22 PM | Report abuse

It is emphatically not a good system. Go read the reports from Avi Rubin and Ed Felten. It's a catastrophe.

The electronic pollbooks were another catastrophe, and if you pay attention you'll see that problems with these were reported all over the state.

Finally, it is quite possible to do in the seven weeks before the election. The paper balloting system already exists, as provisional and absentee ballots. Instead of printing a few provisional ballots, print a lot of provisional ballots, and you're done.

Posted by: antibozo | September 20, 2006 9:38 PM | Report abuse

State-of-the-art voting machines?

Shows that Diebold voting machines can be opened with the same kind of key used for hotel minibars, and available for sale on the Internet. Once opened, the voting machine's memory card, where it stores the votes, is accessible.

This is just the latest of many proof-of-concepts demonstrating the problems with Diebold. Voters should demand that a system with a paper audit trail be used.

Posted by: Ron | September 20, 2006 10:43 PM | Report abuse

There was absolutely nothing wrong we had with the system before this one, where you slid a hole-punch to the correct name and then punched out the little "x". Fast, easy, cheap, verifiable. Let's go back!

Posted by: Pepe le Moco | September 20, 2006 11:59 PM | Report abuse

The Maryland chaos over voting machines is a bad sign concerning midterm elections. It is utterly important for the Democrats to win the House of Representatives now. How can they ever achieve this, when the machines are easy to manipulate? Maryland turns into another Ohio 2004.

Posted by: Angelica | September 21, 2006 1:55 AM | Report abuse

Being in a technology field myself I am amazed that these machines were deployed without enough training and evidently poor planning. If the paper ballots can be reinstated, they should. The elections are too important to risk. Saying the machines cost a lot of money is not an excuse for continuing to use a system that fails. Would you eat your bagged spinach in the fridge because it cost a lot of money?

Here's an idea. Go back to paper but keep the machines and test them. Deploy them in malls and have the malls develop ballots so shoppers can vote on their favorite stores. Put them in schools and have students use them to vote for their student government candidates. Set them up in community centers to vote on upcoming legislation that the statehouse is considering. Through this use of the voting machines for less important voting, the machines can be tested in the field and elections officials can get real world experience in using them. All I have seen is machines set up in a mall about 4 years ago and of the four machines that were set up one was "broken", one failed to take my vote, the third worked and when I asked to use the fourth since of three I had only been able to use one, I used the fourth and it crashed (it actually died). I was assured that these problems would be fixed.

Those who think its just bad training may be right, but I know technology and I know people. The two rarely get along and it takes years for the two to find a happy relationship. Just think about how much you loved your PC when you first got it ... Not. Lets go back to paper until these machines are out of the testing phase of development. Erlich's first correct statement in his tenure was to call for paper in the upcoming election.

Posted by: Sully | September 21, 2006 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Ehrlich has always opposed electronic voting, but the Democrat Party in Maryland jammed it through. Looks like on this issue (just as on the Wal-Mart issue and the PSC issue), Ehrlich is vindicated once again. Maybe all those reliable Democrat voters who only look at the party affiliation when they vote will start to realize that maybe Ehrlich knows what he's doing.

Posted by: MK | September 21, 2006 9:09 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Rufus | September 21, 2006 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Where's the story about Senate President Mike Miller allegedly punching a man in the face?

Posted by: Marylander | September 21, 2006 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Miller is about to release a statement on that. We'll put something up when he does.

Posted by: Phyllis Jordan | September 21, 2006 11:07 AM | Report abuse

MK wrote:
--Maybe all those reliable Democrat voters who only look at the party affiliation when they vote will start to realize that maybe Ehrlich knows what he's doing.--

Yea, especially the ones who were removed from their jobs BECAUSE they were democrats and for no other reason.

Posted by: Sully | September 21, 2006 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Maybe Gov. Erlich can have them reprogramed as slot machines!

Posted by: twd | September 21, 2006 11:33 AM | Report abuse

This is going to be an interesting issue to watch play out in the polls and media, because Erhlich has always been against paper trails until the Dems put it in play and then when it looked like it would pass, he came out in favor of it just to make the Dems go against it...too bad Mike Miller is so power hungry that he fell for it. It could have been a wonderful win for everyone, esp. the dems because it would have made us look bi-partisan rather than oppositional which is what the Republicans are saying about us. Again, Ehrlich will call for paper ballots and a special session when he knows it just isn't feasible to change the system so close to the election in hopes that the dems will oppose it and look bad. It is really up to us in the grass to say, we too want paper ballots, but we want the general to work smoothly and now is not the time to make such a drastic change....Let's train the poll workers, do away with the e-poll books, establish communcations plans and disaster plans and make what we have work! The bottom line is we need to have elections in which people can trust that their vote will count. It just simply does not play well to point fingers right now at our own party much as we would like the real culprits like Sheila Hixson and Mike Miller, to pay the price for playing stupid party politics over common sense!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 12:31 PM | Report abuse

> Erhlich has always been against paper trails until the Dems put it in play

Evidence? That's not what I've read.

Posted by: antibozo | September 21, 2006 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I'll add that when I was getting all those annoying phone calls from various Democratic candidates (for which reason I did not vote at all in the primary), on the rare occasion that an actual human was on the other end of the line, I asked what the candidate's position was on the DRE's, and uniformly the campaign worker didn't know. The Dems were nowhere on the issue during the runup to the primary.

Posted by: antibozo | September 21, 2006 2:07 PM | Report abuse

To follow up on my own request for evidence--this story:

represents that Ehrlich was in favor of the DREs at the beginning of his term.

Posted by: antibozo | September 22, 2006 1:32 AM | Report abuse

Thanks to antibozo for pointing out that Ehrlich is open to changing his mind when presented with the required facts.

Still not enough to get me to vote for him, though.

Posted by: Rufus | September 22, 2006 10:54 AM | Report abuse

He's right about a paper trail.

But that's not what went wrong during the primaries. What happened during the primary election was due to human error and incompetence, and all attributable to Mr. Ehrlich's abominable management style.

Posted by: Stephanie Dray | September 24, 2006 6:01 PM | Report abuse

I agree that human error and incompetence were the primary problem (ha ha), and I'm no fan of Ehrlich, but I don't see how you could blame him. Linda Lamone got us into this situation, and she's responsible for training and making sure procedures are defined and followed. Ehrlich tried to get rid of her, and failed.

Posted by: antibozo | September 24, 2006 8:13 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company