Despite warnings from three computer experts -- including two hired by the state -- about widespread security vulnerabilities in a new electronic voting system, Maryland's top elections administrator said yesterday that she sees no reason for concern about proceeding with the planned statewide use of voting machines.
Linda H. Lamone testified in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court that some of the experts' recommendations are unworkable, unnecessary and illegal.
A voters group is trying to force Lamone's elections department to implement recommended security fixes before the November election. They also hope to persuade Judge Joseph P. Manck to allow voters to use paper ballots if they don't trust the new machines, which cost the state $55 million.
The state is arguing that the machines, which resemble automated teller machines and are made by Diebold Elections Systems, are reliable and that changing course so close to Election Day would court disaster. The machines were used successfully during the March 2 primary in nearly every precinct, officials said.
The plaintiffs called Lamone to testify after her lawyers indicated that they would not call her. The group's attorneys want to prove that she acted in an "arbitrary and capricious manner" in deciding against mitigating security risks brought to her attention.
Lamone said she learned of the first critical report, by Johns Hopkins University computer science professor Aviel Rubin, last summer, calling it "so-called research" and "not a valid report."
She recalled being "irritated" that Diebold had allowed its source code to be found on the Internet and as a result studied by Rubin and his colleagues. She said the report ruined her vacation because she was forced to spend time on the phone answering questions about it and had to return home early.
Lamone also said she had implemented many recommendations outlined by consulting firms hired by the state, SAIC and RABA Technologies, but that some of their proposals were unworkable.
Several states with plans to introduce touch-screen machines this fall have put restrictions on them in light of criticisms by Rubin and other technical experts. California, for example, will require a paper record of each electronic vote by 2006.
Adding paper for Maryland voters this fall could cause numerous problems, including the risk of double voting, said Catherine Davis, Allegany County's elections administrator.
"I think we're going to have lines and confusion and complaints" if paper is included as an option, she testified.