Diebold Source Code Disks Mailed to Maryland Democrat

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that a former delegate in Maryland's state legislature, who is also both a well-known local philanthropist and critic of the state's election system, received an anonymously mailed package appearing to contain original source code diskettes used by Diebold Election Systems for machines used in that state's election in 2004.

The version of the election software on those diskettes, as well as its markings, appear to indicate that they do not contain programs used in this year's statewide elections, but instead a version used during a testing session by an independent firm in November 2003, according to the Sun.

However, if the FBI or other officials can verify their authenticity, it could raise even more questions regarding the integrity of elections tabulated using Diebold equipment, which were already in some doubt.

An anonymous letter addressed to Cheryl C. Kagan, accompanying the diskettes, stated that they were acquired from the State Board of Elections. It went on to say, "You have the software because you are a credible person who can save the state from itself. You must alert the media and save democracy."

Kagan reportedly alerted the state attorney-general's office, which broke the news in a public statement.

The revelation prompted calls by the state's Republican governor, Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., to renew his call for scrapping the Diebold equipment altogether, joining Kagan's calls for a return to a paper ballot, or at least some type of voting mechanism where votes are physically recorded.

During last September's primary, a plethora of mishaps across the state involving Diebold voting equipment called the results of some tabulations into question, some of which could not be independently verified for weeks afterward. Johns Hopkins University professor Aviel Rubin volunteered as an election worker on that day, and chronicled many of the problems first hand for his blog.

As Prof. Rubin recalls, fifteen minutes after polling began, a person entered his precinct station claiming he was an election official from a nearby precinct and that he had received too few smartcards to operate his machines, and asked if he could borrow some of theirs.

"We had 60 smartcards, and the chief judge suggested that we give them 20 so that they could at least get their election started," Rubin wrote. "As she was handing them over, I suggested that we had to somehow verify his claim. After all, anyone could walk in off the street and claim this guy's story, and we would give them 20 access cards. The chief judge agreed with me. The guy pulled out his driver's license to prove who he was, but I told him that we were not doubting who he was, we just wanted to verify that we should give him the cards."

As it turned out, the gentleman's request was legitimate, as a great number of precincts ended up actually receiving too few smartcards to operate their equipment.

The debate over the veracity of Maryland elections literally became a televised event last month, as an argument between Gov. Ehrlich and the state's elections administrator, Linda Lamone -- whom Ehrlich cannot fire directly -- was captured by news cameras in the lobby of the State House. A Democrat appointee from the previous administration, Lamone was one of the original advocates for a move to Diebold voting systems, after the disastrous 2000 presidential elections made a mockery of punch-card voting.

Kagan, a former a two-term Democrat delegate serving Montgomery County, made her opinion known late last month, with her description of Lamone for the Washington Post: "She can never admit an error, and she doesn't show a willingness to be open-minded, to change for any reason, despite all evidence pointing to the need for changes and improvements."

Kagan's comments were probably partly responsible for her elevation to the role of most likely recipient of the possibly stolen Diebold source code disks.

The US Senate seat in Maryland is currently up for grabs, with the pending retirement of long-time veteran Democrat Paul Sarbanes. In the race for his open seat, recent polls show ten-term Democrat congressman Ben Cardin leading one-term Republican congressman Michael Steele by as much as 15 points. Democrats are polling ahead of Republicans in six of the eight congressional seats in contention, while Gov. Ehrlich, in his re-election bid, is 12 points behind former Baltimore mayor Martin O'Malley in a recent Gallup poll.

Last weekend, the Washington Post contacted Prof. Rubin, who reviewed the software mailed to Kagan's office, and who stated afterwards he believes it to be authentic. Rubin participated in a Johns Hopkins study three years ago which concluded that Maryland's original installation of Diebold systems for its 2004 elections was rushed, and as a result, "the integrity and privacy of these elections may still be in jeopardy."

The Johns Hopkins study was recently joined by one from Princeton, which demonstrated how a recent model Diebold system could be sabotaged using everyday tools and ingenuity.

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