Thursday, September 21, 2006

Paper Ballots in November?

The Maryland primary last week was insane. Montgomery County wasn't the only place with problems, though ours were bad. So now the governor is saying he wants to go back to paper ballots in November.

Here it is in The Post:
A week after the primary election was plagued by human error and technical glitches, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) called yesterday for the state to scrap its $106 million electronic voting apparatus and revert to a paper ballot system for the November election.

"When in doubt, go paper, go low-tech," he said.

Linda H. Lamone, the administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections, quickly denounced the plan to swap voting systems just seven weeks before the general election as "crazy." And Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said it "cannot happen. It will not happen." Ehrlich Wants Paper Ballots For Nov. Vote

Well, yeah, it's a little crazy to start in September to prepare for the November election. But ... it was also a little crazy not to prepare Tuesday morning for an election taking place that day. But they did that.

As we saw, the people on these election committees are making pretty nice money for working a couple of days every other year. I didn't notice anybody getting fired over the last round of screw-ups, why don't we see if they can hustle a little bit, and fix things this time around?
Ehrlich said that, if necessary, he would call a special session of the Maryland General Assembly to change the law to allow paper ballots. But Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) dismissed the idea of a special session, saying elections officials should focus instead on fixing the current system.

"We paid millions. These are state-of-the-art machines," said Miller, who called Ehrlich's announcement a political ploy to energize his Republican supporters.

Well, that's an interesting "ploy" then, it seems to me. Trying to arrange so that the public can vote, and the votes can be counted? Very sly.

I am no fan of the governor's, but I will point out one thing: Maryland has two parties. This governor, I'm sure, would like to do some really nasty things, but he can never get away with it, because of real checks and balances. The presence of the opposite party challenges him to come up with ideas that won't make him look like a jerk -- because somebody prominent is sure to point it out in a public place. The state legislature won't just cover for him, like the federal legislature does for the President.

In this situation, the best way to make the opposition look bad is to have better ideas than them. And if there's a "ploy" here, that's it.

Oh, and speaking of crazy stuff, how about that reasoning? We paid millions. These are state-of-the-art machines. The fact that they don't work, that they can easily be hacked (you saw the video from Princeton, right?) ... it doesn't matter. We paid a whole bunch for these things and we ought to use them.

The Democrats are on the wrong side of this one. Whatever you think, this Diebold system is bizarre. The source code is secret, the sytsems are unsecured -- I saw recently where you can buy the keys to open them on eBay, it's the same key that opens the mini-bar in a hotel. It's been shown that you can easily insert a program into the machines that will change the vote counts, and even that a virus can be written that will spread the secret, self-deleting program from one machine to others.
In Montgomery and Prince George's counties yesterday, election officials continued to count the thousands of paper provisional ballots that could determine the outcome of the 4th Congressional District Democratic primary race between incumbent U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn and challenger Donna Edwards. Prince George's officials cracked opened 26 machines yesterday and retrieved votes that had not been counted.

This whole voting machine thing has been a swindle from the start. If you haven't been following this, check out, which took the early lead on covering these stories, and The Brad Blog, which is really covering it heavily these days. They're not joking when they say our democracy is at stake.


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