Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Maryland’s Administrator for Life, Part Two

Perhaps the one thing for which Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) Administrator Linda Lamone will always be remembered is her stauch support of Diebold voting machines, which the state began using in 2001. By 2004, voters had filed a lawsuit asking to vote by paper because of research showing flaws in the machines. According to the Gazette, Lamone pushed back against expert witnesses who said the machines were vulnerable to hacking.

Lamone said she gave no credibility to a report last year by Johns Hopkins University professor Aviel D. Rubin, which described the machines’ source code as riddled with security flaws and sloppy programming. Lamone also said she never considered decertifying the machines, despite subsequent reports by SAIC Corp. and RABA Technologies that found the system to be highly vulnerable.

Rubin told the court that a voter-verified paper trail should be added to the machines because there is no other way to independently audit the machines and have a meaningful recount.

Lamone criticized Rubin's “so-called research,” saying that it annoyed her in part because it interrupted an expensive pre-paid vacation she had planned and was submitted to The New York Times before it was published in an academic journal.
Lamone had known since at least September 2003 that the machines had serious problems. SBE had redacted a publicly-released report about them at the time; the unredacted version detailing “extraordinary security vulnerabilities” appears here. But Lamone still told a Virginia legislative committee in 2006 that she would allow paper verification only “over my dead body.” Here is the infamous video.

Ironically, even employees of Diebold despised Lamone. The Gazette described an email about Lamone sent inside the company:

An internal Diebold e-mail dated Dec. 18, 2002, said to be from Sue Page, one of Diebold's Maryland project managers, described Lamone as being “about power and control.”

“She feels powerful when she makes negative comments. What she misses is that her negative comments reflect negatively on her,” the e-mail says. “She should be proud of and support her initiative of a state wide voting change, rather than casting doubt on her own decision.”

The e-mail continues saying that the State Board of Elections has a negative approach, mandating to county election directors instead of working with them, and threatening researchers rather than building a positive relationship.

Advice on how to deal with the media fell on deaf ears, the e-mail says. “There’s not much that we can do, other than hope that a new Republican Governor will effect change.”
Lamone is legendary for giving no quarter to critics. Here she is, blasting her opponents as living in “fantasy land” and walking out on an interview.

Diebold’s problems began to multiply soon after Maryland began using their machines. In December 2003, the Associated Press reported that Diebold employed at least five felons in management roles, including “a cocaine trafficker, a man who conducted fraudulent stock transactions and a programmer jailed for falsifying computer records.” In September 2004, the State of California sued Diebold for fraud. In the 2004 general election, four percent of the Diebold machines in Montgomery County experienced “screen-freezes” and the company had to repair 4,700 machines in four counties a year later. Lamone did not tell her own board about the issue and it was not reported publicly until the Post broke the story in October 2006.

But wait - there is more! In December 2005, Diebold’s CEO, who once promised he would “deliver” Ohio for George W. Bush, resigned. At about the same time, a shareholder class action lawsuit was filed against the company alleging that it “failed to keep control over the quality of its voting machines.” (That suit and four others were dismissed last year.) In 2006, the House of Delegates voted 137-0 for balloting with a paper trail, but the Senate blocked the move. None of this stopped Lamone from praising Diebold’s products in its advertising brochures in 2007.

After many problems in Montgomery County’s 2006 election, the state decided to scrap the machines and file suit against Diebold to recover the costs incurred in fixing them. Diebold was finally forced to admit in a March 2009 California state hearing that its machines could lose votes without any evidence of deletion.

Diebold’s voting machines may be headed out of the Free State, but Linda Lamone still survives. How can that be? We’ll find out in Part Three.