Diebold plowed millions into advertising campaigns across the state in order to declare the dawn of their new electronic voting age. "It's Here!" screamed billboards on buses, billboards, mall kiosks and television commercials --- "Maryland's Better Way to Vote".
Diebold's dream has become a nightmare for the once-great company.
In the letter sent by Maryland's Republican governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. to the State Board of Elections on Wednesday, he declares that he "no longer [has] confidence in the State Board of Elections' ability to conduct fair and accurate elections in 2006."
Citing the "widespread national concern about the reliability and security of electronic voting systems," the decertification and denial of certification of Diebold around the country, and the need to "get aggressive in responding to citizens' concerns over public confidence in the elections system," Ehrlich says it's time to demand paper ballots once again in the State of Maryland.
"It is my personal belief," writes Ehrlich in a letter to BoE Chairman, Gilles Burger, "that the voters of Maryland should be allowed to vote a paper ballot or have a voter verification paper-trail to electronic voting as reassurance to voters that their votes are being accurately cast."
In his excoriating letter to Burger, the Governor goes on to cite the 78% increase in base cost for the system over original estimates and the --- sit down for this --- "1000% increase for estimates of the annual maintenance costs for this system."
"The cost of Maryland's Diebold voting machines has skyrocketed as our confidence in the system has plummeted," wrote the Governor.
Finally, the letter concludes with a brutal condemnation of the MD Elections Administrator, Linda Lamone, charging that her work and that of her staff, has been "primarily on behalf of partisan legislators and their interests and not on the interests of the citizens of Maryland."
Lamone, who is currently President of the National Association of State Elections Directors (NASED) has been a champion of Diebold's paperless touch-screen machines in the state. She recently testified to the state Senate that there was not enough time or money to add "voter-vefied paper trails" to Maryland's touch-screen machines prior to the 2006 election. As well, she has maintained for years that the system is safe, reliable and secure. Those claims are not well-founded.
An internal review by the state Elections Board after the 2004 election titled "Lessons Learned" [PDF] reveals that "189 voting units (7%) of units deployed failed on Election Day. An additional 122 voting units (or 5%) were suspect based on number of votes captured."
Those documented failures, of course, are just the ones we know about. In Leon County, Florida, when Diebold machines were hacked last December, it was done without a trace being left behind.
Washinton Post's Thursday coverage of Ehrlich's letter quotes him as telling reporters, "Maryland is not prepared to conduct an election."
Some Democrats in the Maryland Senate, however, are critical of Ehrlich who, they point out, had previously blocked efforts to include "voter-verified paper trails" on Maryland's paperless touch-screen machines.
That, however, was several months, and many "Diebold hacks" ago. Despite Diebold spokesman David "Baghdad" Bear's predictable response that there is still nothing to worry about and these machines work just great! --- there is most definitely something to worry about and the machines are terrible. Democrats in Maryland would be wise to recognize that, and be wary of getting lost in partisan politics, even if they were the ones responsible for deploying these crappy systems across the state in the first place.
The BRAD BLOG cannot overstate the devastating impact of Ehrlich's letter on the future of Diebold's Electronic Voting Machine hopes for this country. And it comes not a moment too soon.
[UPDATE: RAW STORY reports Maryland used Diebold machines in 2002 Gubernatorial Election and 2002 primary without certification, in violation of the law! And more...]
The entire 4-page letter from Ehrlich is here [PDF]. Extended "must read" selections follow...