19 July 2004

Maryland Activists Want E-Voting Receipts

July 19, 2004

Robert MacMillan, washingtonpost.com Staff Writer

Melanie Vaughan-West arrived at the Maryland State House in Annapolis last Tuesday to demand something she never had before -- a receipt for her vote.

The pastor of the nearby Broadneck Baptist Church gathered with approximately 100 other people in front of the state capitol to add her voice to the small-but-growing chorus of complaints that electronic touch-screen voting machines are more susceptible to fraud and manipulation than their paper-based predecessors.

"They're not dependable," she said. "There are so many things that can go wrong."

A piece of paper taped to Vaughan-West's back read, "Will your vote count?" Others carried picket signs and wore pins saying, "Make sure your vote counts -- demand a paper ballot," and "Don't let the computer eat your vote."

One man wore a black box, with his head and feet sticking out at either end, designed to look like a computer screen with a gaping maw, fangs and malevolent eyes, ready to swallow votes on Election Day.

They sweated through a dank, cloudy July afternoon on the little square at Lawyer's Mall as activists predicted that e-voting machines could result in lost votes and a compromised election this November.

The event, organized by the Maryland-based Campaign for Verifiable Voting, was part of the "Computer Ate My Vote" day, which saw activists gather in 19 states to call on their governors and state election boards to require that touchscreen electronic voting machines produce a paper record of each vote cast.

[...] After the speeches and the applause at the Annapolis rally, the crowd shuffled from the small brick courtyard at Lawyer's Mall to the State House steps. The plan was to march up the stairs to the governor's office, where they would hand-deliver their 13,000-name petition.

In the end, they stayed outside and chanted ad hoc slogans while Dels. Bobo and Montgomery got a brief audience with Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R). As it turned out, the governor's office would not accept the hand-delivered petitions -- for security reasons.

And Melanie Vaughan-West is considering what might be the only legal way to vote on paper this November: absentee ballot.


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