Votes Written on 'Scraps of Paper' in MD With Machines Down and No Paper Ballots Available!
WaPo Columnist Says 'Switch to Paper', Repub Gov Wants Paper, Dem Election Director in Denial, Congress Needed to Step in Immediately!
By Brad Friedman on 9/21/2006, 5:59pm PT  
At Piney Branch Elementary School in Takoma Park, officials quickly ran out of paper ballots and began telling voters to use scraps of paper after electronic balloting ended at 8 p.m., said Dennis Desmond, who voted with an ersatz paper ballot.

Officials, he said, were calling out the names on the ballot while people wrote down their choices on blank paper. Desmond estimated that 50 people voted that way. Voters also were asked to provide biographical information about themselves as election officials attempted to make the ballots legal.

He said that election officials dispatched a worker to a nearby store to buy envelopes and masking tape so the ersatz ballots could be enclosed and sealed.

-- From Washington Post coverage of Maryland's Sept. 12 Primary Election Meltdown

In addition to the front-pager we reported on last night from today's Washington Post covering Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich's call for a return to paper ballots in the state this November, WaPo has two additional stories today underscoring the desperate need for the LET AMERICA VOTE ACT to be passed immediately by the U.S. Congress. The simple proposal I've made calls for Emergency Paper Ballots to be mandated at every polling place this November in the face of machine breakdowns from coast to coast all primary season long.

One of the other two WaPo stories on this today, this one by Marc Fisher, on the front page of the Metro Section headlined is "If Paper Ballots Restore Trust In Elections, Let's Switch." It includes this information in response to last week Primary Election Meltdown:

The obvious solution, as Gov. Bob Ehrlich said yesterday, is to put the machines in the closet (actually, returning them to the store is an even better idea; does anybody in Annapolis still have that receipt for $106 million?) and go back to paper ballots. The governor bemoaned flaws in the Diebold electronic poll books that Maryland used for the first time last week to check in voters: "Technology is a wonderful thing, but clearly, given their apparent inability to function appropriately --- when in doubt, go paper, go lower technology."

...As well as this extraordinary exchange from MD's embattled Democratic State Elections Director and Diebold apologist, the not-yet-resigned, Linda Lamone...

I asked the state's elections administrator, Linda Lamone, whether Maryland wasn't just a bit too quick to adopt electronic voting. Doesn't the computer at your desk ever freeze up on you?

"No," she replied.

Never?

"No."

But surely people in your office have had that experience?

"No."

(Maybe we've found the solution to Maryland's voting problem: Everybody head on down to Linda Lamone's office, where the machines work 100 percent of the time.)

Does this sound like a woman who is open to solving the problem or more like someone beholden to a $106 million contract with Diebold, the machines' Ohio-based manufacturer?

As Robert F. Kennedy Jr. reported today in Rolling Stone, Lamone has been a menace to democracy in Maryland since at least 2002 when she allowed Diebold to come in and take over the state and both run and ruin their elections thereafter.

She has asked the front-group organization Election Center --- they're sponsored by both Lamone's own National Association of Election Directors (NASED) and the Voting Machine Companies themselves! --- to create a fox-like report on what's wrong with her Maryland henhouse.

The other story, posted only on the WaPo website, has several alarming first hand observations from poll workers, inspectors and voters. Here's a few of the highlights lowlights...

Barbara Abramson, a chief judge at the Rockville Senior Center polling place, described her experiences as the worst in her 20 years as a judge.
...
"We heard from the voters that we have to stay open until 9," she said. "It is really very upsetting. It's ridiculous. . . . People are upset about the machines anyway, security; there is no this, no that. Can you imagine what would have happened if something like this had happened in a general election? I don't even want to think about it."

...

At Piney Branch Elementary School in Takoma Park, officials quickly ran out of paper ballots and began telling voters to use scraps of paper after electronic balloting ended at 8 p.m., said Dennis Desmond, who voted with an ersatz paper ballot.

Officials, he said, were calling out the names on the ballot while people wrote down their choices on blank paper. Desmond estimated that 50 people voted that way. Voters also were asked to provide biographical information about themselves as election officials attempted to make the ballots legal.

He said that election officials dispatched a worker to a nearby store to buy envelopes and masking tape so the ersatz ballots could be enclosed and sealed.

...

At Rock View Elementary School in Kensington, Lauren Anthone didn't have to wait in line long, and the electronic cards had been delivered by the time she arrived about 11 a.m. But the computerized summary page that allows voters to review their selections did not display all the results, she said in an e-mail.

"The screen 'chopped off' names at the bottom of the screen as though you were supposed to scroll down the page, but the page did not scroll," she said. "By tapping the category heading on screen, you could review the selections you had made but could not confirm them in the summary. There was no way to verify that the person you voted for was counted correctly."
...
How can we 'spread democracy' around the world if we can't make it work in Kensington?"

...

"In the past, at least three people manned the initial entry area before funneling people to the voting booths. The woman handling this machine said it had been overheating all day, and that this polling location had been promised three machines, but only received one.

"As your paper [columnist Marc Fisher] noted, the situation was worse than many Third World countries. I have observed national elections in Uruguay, and they were a lot smoother than this," [Karen F.] Travis said in an e-mail.