Diebold says MD bug fixed, officials dubious

Diebold says it has fixed a bug in electronic poll books, which caused machines to crash repeatedly. Other bugs with the books still remain. Elections boss will 'ship them back' if she's left unsatisfied.

Diebold says it has fixed the bug that caused Maryland voting machines to crash repeatedly during the state's primary election, the Baltimore Sun reports.

But elections commissioner Linda H. Lamone is taking a wait-and-see attitude, saying she would not be convinced until it passed a daylong test scheduled for next Tuesday. The company still has "a big task" ahead, she said.

And naturally there are plenty of political charges flying around the state. Gov. Robert Ehrlich endorsed the purchase of Diebold machines in 2003. But he charges that Democratic changes, like early voting - which has since been declared unconstitutional - have destroyed the system's integrity.

The state's $18 million electronic check-in books were purchased to facilitate early voting, which the state's highest court recently ruled was unconstitutional. The units replace traditional paper logs containing voter information, and in theory allow all elections officials to know when a voter signs in. State officials have already said that paper back-ups to e-poll books will be available in all precincts in November.

And Diebold has yet to solve two less-widespread problems that disrupted the machines. And it must also install all of the fixes on 5,500 e-poll books.

At the state elections office yesterday, Diebold summoned reporters and re-created the e-poll book failure, which occurred after 40 to 50 voters had been logged into the machine. A box on the lower left-hand corner of the screen turned red, a "serious error" message popped up on the center of the screen and the machine abruptly turned off.

The employees then ran more than 100 voters through an upgraded unit without incident.

Tom Feehan, Diebold's project manager in Maryland, said his team found a flaw in the computer code that ran software that had been customized for the state. The finished product was not sufficiently tested, he acknowledged, calling it "an oversight."

In addition, some poll books were not communicating with each other during the primary, a glitch that could let a voter sign in to one poll book and then sign it again at another poll book in the same precinct, thus being able to vote twice.

And yet another problem: "A handful of voter access cards, which the e-poll book programs and the voter then inserts into the voting machine to activate it, did not work."

"I had assumed [the e-poll books] had been tested more than" Diebold stated they had, Lamone said. If the company can't prove they work, "I'll pack them up and ship them back."