Mary Kiraly to Liz Rich:
We are about to see a lot of finger pointing in
Maryland. The Montgomery County Council president is
threatening to force the firing of people at the local
Board of Elections. The Governor is pointing at
(Democratic appointee) State Elections Administrator
Linda Lamone. The Democrats are pointing at the local
elections boards that have a majority of Republicans
(since the Governor is a Republican). And Ms. Lamone
is blaming the civil servants who work for the Boards
for failing to properly train judges.
The poor folks who do the work of the local boards
have no time to defend themselves. They are busy
plowing through the stacks of- as yet- uncounted
absentee and provisional ballots, and have no voice in
the system if the State Administrator fails to be
I am having none of it. First of all, the local
Boards have no say in which election system the voters
use. Our Diebold paperless touchscreen system was
purchased by the Legislature under the guidance of
Ms. Lamone. Second, they never asked to have Diebold
e-poll books for voter check in. That deal was done
by the Legislature and is a very interesting window on
the whole process.
Democratic State Senate leaders were determined to
institute Early Voting in Maryland this year. The
Republicans immediately charged that the system would
lead to voter fraud. Enter Ms. Lamone with another
Diebold product to quell Republican fears: Diebold
E-Poll Books, interfacing with the statewide voter
registration data base, for voter check in. The
Governor, supportive of a leased optical scan system
for fall, appropriated the funds for that purpose.
The Legislature took those funds and bought Diebold
E-Poll Books instead.
Irony of ironies this summer: Early Voting was ruled
unconstitutional and went away; but Diebold E-poll
books remained. The smart cards, used with the Diebold
E-Poll Books, are the starting point in the voting
process. When the cards were not distributed in
Montgomery Co., and were defective in many places, the
whole system was affected.
I attended enough Board of Elections meetings to know
that the local Boards were overburdened with the new
technologies, and the demands of HAVA. They were
repeatedly stymied, in efforts to prepare for the
election, by the flaws in the statewide voter
registration data base, “MD Voters.” The State also
delayed in providing the training manuals the local
boards required for training election judges. It was
not a case of the Boards receiving too little
oversight from the State Administrator. On the
contrary, the State Board was failing to accomplish
the basic tasks that underwrite everything else that
is done locally.
And let me tell you about the unsung heroes in the
voting process: Election Judges. In Montgomery Co.,
they spent Monday evening going through the rigorous
procedures to set up the Diebold AccuVote TS voting
machines. They arrived at the polls on Tuesday by
6:00 a.m. When the doors opened to voters at 7:00
a.m., many precincts had no smart cards to begin the
voting process, and no procedures for proceeding.
Most precincts provided provisional ballots, some did
not think to do that and sent voters away. There were
a lot of angry voters in the County that day and they
took it out on the election judges. Then, the normal
voting hours were extended by court order, to
accommodate voters who could not vote in the morning.
Election Judges did not get to close the polls until
9:00 p.m. They had had (as is normal) no breaks for
lunch or dinner. They began to attempt to tally the
voting results, with varying degrees of success at
9:00. When that was done, they had to disassemble and
box the voting components, package the election data
in special zipper bags, and deliver all of this to the
Board office. For many, the day ended at midnight.
The next morning the reporting on the election began
and the people who had worked the hardest, and had had
the least to say in the development of the election
process, were faulted.
Does this sound like the best way to run a democracy?
I ASKED MARY K. WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MISSING SMART CARDS. HER ANSWER:
Still to be determined who failed to add the smart
cards to the packets that went with the e-poll books.
The Wash Post reported yesterday that the cards
remained in a box, at the Board’s warehouse when
machines were delivered.
But, having attended enough Board Meetings to be
cynical, I wonder whether the State BoE was late in
getting the cards to the county, or Diebold late in
delivering the cards.
The local Board will probably pay for this with a big
shake up; but I feel protective of the civil servants
there (not the appointed Board). I wish I could go to
the County Council meeting to testify in their behalf
but the Board begins (what promises to be the VERY
interesting) provisional ballot canvas that morning.
So many reasons to pull one’s hair out… so little