Outlook unclear for Diebold machines in MD election

Bug that interrupts peer communication can break e-poll book system, exposing system to illegal votes.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor
Maryland held a mock trial of its Diebold voting machines yesterday, to see whether the company's fixes had solved the rather severe problems the machines suffered in the state's primary election. The Baltimore Sun reports:
The machines experienced 10 problems yesterday, including someone accidentally kicking out a power cord, as more than 7,000 votes were cast during a mock election at the BWI Airport Marriott. Three of the glitches were identical and isolated to one of the 13 machines.

The company had not actually solved the most troublesome bug, however, which caused the units to stop communicating with each other during the Sept. 12 primary. For purposes of the mock election, computer mice were added to the voting machines. Not until after the close of the test did Diebold announce it had come up with another solution for the problem.

Elections official Linda Lamone remained dubious about the outlooks for November. "I want to wait and rather not say today what we're going to do," Lamone said yesterday.

The e-poll books are supposed to be operated by tapping a small plastic stylus against the computer screens. The terminals are linked together and are used to register, among other things, whether a voter has shown up at the polls. But during last month's primary election, on occasion, one machine in a precinct would show voters as having cast ballots, while another would say they had not come to the polls.

To fix the problem, Diebold officials said yesterday the units could be operated with computer mouses and that they could provide the state with 5,500 of them in time for the general election. Or they could install new software and allow election judges to touch the screens.

Officials are now awaiting input from QA consultants on whether the bug fix will work adequately before a mid-October deadline.

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