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Maryland Election Nightmare Underway

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Message Mary Howe Kiraly
Voting integrity activists, after failing to secure a paper ballot in the 2006 Maryland Legislative Session, have been concerned that it might take an election meltdown to focus the Legislature and the State Board of Elections on the vulnerabilities in paperless touchscreen voting. We may have just gotten that "perfect storm."

Voting in the 2006 Maryland Primary is underway. As soon as the polls opened, reports began coming in from angry voters. The first problems arose over a failure to deliver the crucial voter smart cards to the precincts. These cards download the appropriate ballot face from the Diebold e-poll books, being used for the first time for voter check in. In precincts that did receive the smart cards, it was being reported that only a fraction of the cards that were delivered were able to be used. Early in the morning, Baltimore media outlets had already received reports from angry voters in 30-40 precincts. The Washington Post was swamped with calls before the Metro Desk opened at 9:00 a.m.

When the first arrivals were unable to vote on the Diebold AccuVote TS machines, they were given provisional ballots instead. The wait at one Montgomery County precinct, to vote on a provisional ballot, was approximately a half-hour at 8:00 a.m. There were reports of voters leaving in disgust as waiting times increased. One Democratic Area Coordinator, in Montgomery Country, reported that the voted provisional ballots were being stacked on chairs in the voting station. There appeared to be no secured receptacle for depositing these ballots.

In addition to start up problems at many precincts, some voters who were able to vote on the machines, reported problems in registering their selections. These problems included having to register a candidate choice multiple times before the machine appeared to accept that selection. One voter reported having to shake a machine to get it to record his vote.

More to follow as the day progresses...
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Mary Howe Kiraly is a voting activist living in Maryland.
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