ANNAPOLIS – With only three weeks remaining until voters statewide get their first feel of new touch-screen voting machines, lawmakers are still working to plug the system’s security holes, including adding voter-verifiable paper records.
Opponents reiterated the vulnerabilities of a voting system that was initially praised for its accuracy and revolutionary advantages for disabled voters at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing Tuesday.
The bill before the committee would require computerized voting machines to produce a printed record for the voter to inspect and confirm. The paper ballots would be used for any legally required recount and to monitor the accuracy of the computerized results.
Voter-verifiable paper records would be mandatory by the 2004 general election if the proposed bill succeeds.
Touch-screen voting machines debuted in a few elections in 2002, and must be used in all jurisdictions by 2006.
Supporters of the paper ballots compared them to receipts printed at automated teller machines and gasoline pumps.
Delegate Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, said the lack of verifiable ballots constituted a failure of the voting system.
“With the old (voting) system, as bad as it was . . . you had a back up,” Barve said. “You had an audit trail, not just something someone calls an audit trail.”
The bill’s principle sponsor, Delegate Karen Montgomery, D-Montgomery, said the security flaws discovered by three studies of the state’s new Diebold AccuVote-TS voting system necessitated the push for individual vote records.
Until there are voter-verifiable records, Montgomery said she will be “unhappy and uncomfortable voting in the next two elections.”
Some opponents also said installing printers at each voting machine would be too expensive, but Montgomery countered that Diebold provided printers to San Diego County, Calif., for free after questions from that county’s supervisors.
With a projected state budget gap of more than $800 million, Delegate Jean Cryor, R-Montgomery, asked the committee to look into the differences between the two contracts.
Proponents of the voting paper trail said software could easily be corrupted by the computer programmers responsible for creating the technology in the first place.
Kevin Zeese with the Campaign for Verifiable Voting said the risk of corrupted computer coding had not been considered adequately and said printed records of individual votes was the “common sense solution” to avoiding election fraud.
“We don’t know how to keep our computers safe from software glitches,” Zeese said. “We need a second system, and we need a paper ballot at every machine not just some machines.”
Printers attached to voting machines would print ballots inside a locked glass box to allow voters to read, but not handle, the print-out. The ballot would then be stored in the box as an official voting record. State Board of Elections Administrator Linda Lamone said voter-verifiable ballots would open the door for poll workers to view individual votes in the process of repairing printer malfunctions, and continue the problem of visually impaired voters casting their ballots independently.