Voter Verified Paper Ballot Legislation Filed With 23 Bi-Partisan Co-sponsors
On February 7, SB 713, a Senate companion of the 'paper trail' bill was introduced by Maryland State Senator Paula Hollinger (pictured at right) along with with 22 co-sponsors of both parties. The bill will require only 24 to pass when it reaches the Senate floor. All the members of the Senate Committee responsible for election issues support the bill. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee has been announced that a hearing for SB 713 will be held on Thursday, February 16th at 1:00 p.m.. For information about how you can attend this meeting and support SB 713 visit TrueVoteMD.
Hollinger's bill is a companion to HB 244, introduced by Delegate Sheila Hixson last week. On the House side, Delegates are expressing confidence that HB244 will pass in a near unanimous vote. Civic organizations covering a wide range of interests support voter verified paper ballot legislation.
Both bills would require all votings systems used in the state to produce or require the use of a voter verified paper record. The bill also calls for hand counted audits of a percentage of the votes by each election board in the state. "Maryland is on the verge of enacting legislation that will ensure transparent elections that voters can trust. When HB 244/SB713 becomes law Maryland will move from a state with the least secure and least transparent election system to a state with one of the most secure and transparent systems," said Bob Ferraro of TrueVoteMD.
State Elections Administrator Linda Lamone remains steadfast in her allegiance to paperless touchcreens and, according to the Capital News Service, she told the House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee, which is considering HB 244, that a change would cause both physical and financial burdens to the state. Lamone's testimony contradicted that of more than 20 individuals who spoke in favor of instituting paper-trail machines, including some who were blind and handicapped. TrueVoteMD has published a point-by-point rebuttal of Ms. Lamone's testimony.
Ms. Lamone came armed with a freshly-minted voter-verification study performed by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County that she had commissioned. To no one's surprise the report supported Lamone's contention that new machines could not be implemented in time for new elections. However, the four machines tested were prototypes, are not commercially available and are not used in the country.
Members of TrueVoteMD, however, pointed out that the study was commissioned by the state, which chose the machines to be studied, and that the Diebold machine tested is not used anywhere. They also noted that the study considered only the possibility of retrofitting the current machines including the option of a paper based optical scan system, which is both less expensive and provides the ability to audit election results.
The Capital News Service article mentioned that Delegate Elizabeth Bobo, a co-sponsor of the bill, said that optical scanners used for absentee ballots, could save half the estimated $55 million cost of retrofitting the current machines. Delegate Hixson, added that optical scanners should not be difficult to ready by September because they are in use for absentee ballots.
Linda Schade of TrueVoteMD added "The widespread support for this bill in Maryland - inside the legislature and out - shows the state has come together in support of the basic proposition that voters should be able to trust that their votes are counted as case. We applaud Delegate Hixson and Senator Hollinger for showing leadership on this issue."
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