The state of Maryland is poised to ditch its US$95 million (NZ$148 million) investment in Diebold’s touch-screen e-voting systems because they can’t produce paper receipts.
The state House of Delegates recently voted 137-0 to approve a bill prohibiting election officials from using AccuVote-TS touch-screen systems in the 2006 primary and general elections. The legislation calls for the state to lease paper-based optical-scan systems for the 2006 votes. State Delegate Anne Healey estimated the leasing cost at US$12.5 million to US$16 million for the two elections.
Healey, a Democrat, is the vice chairwoman of Maryland’s Ways and Means Committee, which recommended the passage of the bill. The bill was then sent on to the state senate for a vote.
Healey said the effort was inspired in part by concerns raised by officials in California and Florida that the Diebold systems have inherent security problems caused by technological and procedural flaws. “We’ve been hearing from the public for the last several years that it doesn’t have confidence in a system without a paper trail,” Healey says. “We need to provide that level of confidence.”
If the bill becomes law, the state’s Diebold systems will be placed in abeyance and the vendor will be required to provide the necessary paper trail, she says.
Healey says the law would require the vendor to provide a paper trail before the 2008 elections or risk losing its contract. The bill also mandates that any leased optical-scan system be equipped to accommodate the needs of disabled voters.
Healey expects the Senate to vote on the bill sometime in the next few weeks.
A Diebold spokesman says the company will “work with the state of Maryland, as we always have, to support their elections as they see fit.” He notes that Maryland has been using Diebold machines for several years without problems. The state first contracted Diebold to provide the systems in January 2002.
Maryland is following in the footsteps of several other states in expressing concern over security flaws in the Diebold machines.
Florida adopted a new set of security procedures for the use of e-voting systems from any supplier.
The implementation of the new procedures in Florida was largely a response to reports issued last month by California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson saying that tests found the Diebold systems vulnerable to external access via hacking or bugs.