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Partisan goals undermine faith in vote machine

Let me see if I understand correctly. The column "How safe is your vote?" (Opinion * Commentary, Jan. 7), mentioned that the CEO of Diebold Election Systems has written in a letter that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president."

As has also been extensively reported, all elections in Maryland will soon be conducted on machines purchased from Diebold that leave no paper trail or any other means of verification of the vote and which run on software that nobody but a few employees of Diebold has ever seen.

Yet in the same feature, the chairman of the Maryland State Board of Elections assures the public that these machines can be trusted.

OK, there you lose me.

The state is buying voting machines that run on software that we've never examined, from a company whose CEO is on record as being committed to delivering votes, and I'm supposed to trust the results? That's not going to happen.

I've written enough software myself to know that this situation is nothing short of an obscenity.

The state assures me that the machines have been "successful" in two elections in four counties and a host of Maryland cities. That's an interesting, but unsupportable, conclusion since these machines left no paper trail from which the validity of the results could have been determined; the evidence of success seems to be simply that the outcomes were uncontested.

If you wish to be sure that your vote isn't going to be "delivered" in our coming elections using touch-screen machines, you have no choice but to use an absentee ballot.

John Sorge


No grounds to trust touch-screen voting

Put simply, there is no scientific or factual basis for the assurances of Gilles W. Burger, chairman of the Maryland State Board of Elections, to Maryland's voters that our voting system is the most accurate ("How safe is your vote?" Opinion * Commentary, Jan. 7).

And despite his blind faith in the expensive and soon-to-be outdated Diebold Election Systems machines, voters will not be able to verify that any of their votes have been recorded accurately or whether they have been recorded at all.

Why should voters expect Maryland's electronic voting system to operate flawlessly when no other electronic system in existence can make this claim? Software and hardware glitches are inherent to any computer system.

Mr. Burger also erroneously claims that the multiple recording functions of Maryland's machines enable an electronic audit. This is analogous to a company making two sets of records of its financial transactions and then claiming you can perform an audit by comparing the two sets.

Mr. Burger has no way of guaranteeing that the internally recorded ballot matches the image that the voter sees on the screen.

Consequently, no viable independent audit or recount can occur with our present system unless a voter-verified paper ballot is added.

Robert Ferraro


The writer is director of the Campaign for Verifiable Voting in Maryland.

Eliminate tax cuts or keep huge deficits

The two clauses in the headline of the article "White House aims to trim deficit, keep tax cuts" (Jan 7) struck me as mutually exclusive.

We could choose to cut billions from the current federal deficit by eliminating President Bush's tax cuts, or we can keep the tax cuts and continue to run huge budget deficits. But we can't do both. The notion that we can flies in the face of common sense.

Perhaps common sense isn't so common.

Joe Wilkins

Ellicott City

States, counties stick hands in our pockets

States and counties are pilfering the taxpayers when they receive a federal break with lower taxes ("State, local taxes rise as U.S. levy falls," Jan. 4). They have their hands in our pockets again.

My question is: When federal taxes rise, will the state and counties lower theirs?

Paul Kowalski


Going vegetarian is the best protection

I must disagree with the writer of one of the letters titled "More mad cows may remain" (Jan. 3) that the "simplest way" to protect ourselves from mad cow disease is to stop feeding animals to other animals.

The best way to protect ourselves from mad cow disease is to go vegetarian. It's also the best way to ward off high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and E. coli and other bacteria routinely found in animal products.

People may be panicking now, but beef has always been bad for us - mad cow is just the tip of the iceberg.

Heather Moore


Let ineffective ban on weapons expire

The writer of the letter "Assault-weapon ban must be renewed" (Jan. 3) misstates several facts.

In fact, the number of police actually shot with assault weapons is very few. And the firearms industry did not evade the assault-weapon ban.

The ban listed certain features that were not allowed on semiautomatic rifles. The industry simply left them off and manufactured rifles that, according to the federal law, were quite legal to make. The designs were approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Perhaps the letter writer should have checked the background of the law to see why it contained a sunset provision in the first place. Congress wanted to have an end point on the ban after 10 years to see if banning guns would affect crime rates.

The answer, according to a Department of Justice report, is no. Banning semiautomatic rifles had no effect on crime.

Therefore, the ban should be allowed to expire, as Congress intended.

Sanford Abrams


The writer is vice president of the Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association Inc.

Was Ehrlich joking about ICC's benefits?

When I read Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s comments on the environmental benefits of the Intercounty Connector project, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry ("Ehrlich leads officials on tour of ICC routes," Jan. 7).

Should I laugh at the ridiculous notion that a few environmental mitigation measures will outweigh the inherent environmental damage that will come from the physical construction of the road, the wholesale destruction of environmentally valuable lands, the thousands upon thousands of cars per day that it will bring, and the inevitable explosion in residential and commercial development that the road will spur?

Or should I cry to think that anyone could actually believe the governor's spin?

We've become adept at saying no to efficient and forward-thinking mass transit projects.

It's about time we got used to turning down hugely expensive and damaging projects in the interest of the world's most inefficient form of transportation, the automobile.

Dan Bierly


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