E-Voting News and Analysis, from the Experts

Tuesday March 08, 2005

Problems in Maryland Just Now Surfacing?

Filed under: — Joseph Lorenzo Hall @ 8:13 pm PST

It appears, if this report pans out, that there were massive systemic failures across Maryland involving Diebold AccuVote-TS machines last November; problems including lost votes, multiple machine failures and even unreadable data cartridges.

Why have we only heard about this now? It’s unclear. From the first report I’ve seen on this:

Scoop: Emerging Scandal on MD Voting Machine Performance

Montgomery County, Maryland. According to county election officials and other sources, all Maryland voting machines have been on ‘’lockdown'’ since November 2, 2004 due to statewide machine failures including 12% of machines in Montgomery County, some of which appear to have lost votes in significant numbers. The State Board of Elections convinced the media that Election Day went smoothly, when in fact there were serious statewide, systemic problems with the Diebold electronic voting machines – so serious that the SBE and Diebold still have not figured out how to prevent the loss of votes in the future.

“Election Day was anything but smooth. Votes were lost, computer cards storing votes were unreadable, thousands of error messages were reported, machines froze in mid-voting and machines refused to boot up. The problems with the machines were so widespread and serious that efforts to hide the problems have failed,” said Linda Schade, director of TrueVoteMD.org. “It is not sufficient for Diebold and the SBE to investigate themselves. They have misled the public about this problem and an independent investigation is needed. Further, these problems indicate that the Diebold machines should be decertified as required by Maryland law and as provided for in the Diebold contract. This is an opportunity to correct the mistaken purchase of paperless electronic voting machines. Diebold should refund Maryland tax dollars and we should start anew with a system that voters trust because it can be independently audited and recounts can be meaningful.”

We’ll need to see some corroboration of this report and what evidence is consistent across the report and what the Maryland elections officials have to say for themselves. I truly hope that this hasn’t been shrouded in secrecy for more than four months… that would be an unqualified disaster of the electoral system and responsibility would lie on the shoulders those we entrust to ensure our votes count.

UPDATE [2005-03-09 17:03:57]: A bit more information on this situation has surfaced in an AP story and in a few critical documents on the TrueVoteMD website.

Apparently, the Montogomery County Board of Elections just released a report, “2004 Presidential General Election Review - Lessons Learned”, which is the basis for the data cited in the story below. Note that the Maryland State Board of Elections claims to have not seen this report and disputes these numbers saying that only 12 out of approximately 3,000 machines in Montgomery County failed.

TrueVoteMD has posted copies of the report (linked to above) and an internal memo, “Montgomery County Root Cause Failure Analysis”. These documents appear to be authentic (that is, no county official is yet disputing their authenticity).

Here’s the skinny from the AP story:

Report Shows Problems With Montgomery Voting Machines

ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) - A review of voting machines used in Montgomery County on Election day found that 7 percent of the machines had problems such as frozen screens or failed to boot up.

An additional 5 percent had vote tallies that were considerably lower than other machines used in the same precincts, causing elections officials to deem them “suspect,” according to the report drafted by the county in December for the local election board. […]

[Montgomery] county’s review of the election concluded that 189 of the units failed. Of those, 58 would not boot up and 106 had the screen freeze.

“In staff opinion, this is the most serious of the problems,” the report states of the screen freezes.

An additional 122 units had results that were deemed suspect, meaning each had 25-50 votes recorded when all other units in a polling place had more than 150 votes.

Margie Rohrer, spokeswoman for the county election board, said some of the machines have been sent to Diebold for testing. She referred all other questions to the state board. The report does not mention whether the vote tally was affected by the problems. […]

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