Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Get Local for 10/24: More Maryland Election Woes (Diebold Source Code Stolen in Maryland!)

Get Local for 10/24: More Maryland Election Woes (Diebold Source Code Stolen in Maryland!)

Maryland. What the hell. Let’s get this straight. First you completely screw up the primary, now it looks like the Diebold Source Code has been stolen from under your noses?
The FBI is investigating the possible theft of software developed by the nation's leading maker of electronic voting equipment, said a former Maryland legislator who this week received three computer disks that apparently contain key portions of programs created by Diebold Election Systems.

Cheryl C. Kagan, a former Democratic delegate who has long questioned the security of electronic voting systems, said the disks were delivered anonymously to her office in Olney on Tuesday and that the FBI contacted her yesterday. The package contained an unsigned letter critical of Maryland State Board of Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone that said the disks were "right from SBE" and had been "accidentally picked up."

Lamone's deputy, Ross Goldstein, said "they were not our disks," but he acknowledged that the software was used in Maryland in the 2004 elections. Diebold said in a statement last night that it had never created or received the disks.

The disks bear the logos of two testing companies that send such disks to the Maryland board after using the software to conduct tests on Diebold equipment. A Ciber Inc. spokeswoman said the disks had not come from Ciber, and Wyle Laboratories Inc. said it was not missing any disks.

Diebold spokesman Mark Radke and Goldstein said that the labels on the disks referred to versions of the software that are no longer in use in Maryland, although the Diebold statement said the version of one program apparently stored on the disks is still in use in "a limited number of jurisdictions" and is protected by encryption. The statement also said the FBI is investigating the disks' chain of custody.

Michelle Crnkovich, an FBI spokeswoman in Baltimore, said she had no knowledge of an investigation.

In an unrelated development, Maryland state auditors said in a report yesterday that the State Board of Elections is not properly controlling access to a new statewide database of registered voters or verifying what changes are made to it. The report comes at a time of heightened concern over the security and effectiveness of electronic voting systems.

Legislative auditor Bruce Myers said it was unusual to allow "across-the-board access" by local election officials to a sensitive database, but Lamone defended the board's practices. In a letter released with the Office of Legislative Audits report, she wrote that the board "is unaware of any allegations of the falsification of additions or deletions to the system."

The FBI investigation into the disks could focus further scrutiny on the security of Maryland's electronic voting system.

Now let’s figure out exactly WHY Maryland residents wouldn’t be inspired with confidence?
The number of Marylanders requesting absentee ballots already exceeds the number cast in the last gubernatorial election. With three weeks left before the general election, ballot requests are still coming.

A new law that took effect this year has removed all restrictions on use of absentee ballots. They previously were available only to people who could not make it to the polls on election day.

That new availability, fallout from the problem-plagued primary election and questions about the reliability of the state's voting system from some political leaders, appears to have spurred demand.

If the flood of requests continues, it could swamp election officials with extra work and delay the outcome of closely contested elections next month. Absentee ballots are not counted until local election officials canvas their results.

This surprised the hell out of me. I mean, I dislike the Ehrlich Administration as much as anyone else, but apparently Ehrlich’s been underfunding predominantly black colleges and universities and is now facing a lawsuit over it. I don’t know the merits of the case, but the fact that it’s been brought at all speaks volumes:
In a move that hails back to the education battles of the last century, a local coalition filed a lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court Oct. 5, alleging the state of Maryland had not fulfilled its obligations under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to equitably fund and enhance historically Black colleges and universities with an eye to removing vestiges of legal segregation.

The Maryland Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Higher Education names Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. and Higher Education Secretary Calvin Burnett as two major defendants. The suit was filed on the heels of a report sent to USDE's Office for Civil Rights by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, which claimed that the state had lived up to the terms of its desegregation commitment. The coalition said it tried contacting OCR to address the matter but was ignored.

'The coalition enthusiastically embraces this action to resolve the matter of the lack of parity and equity between historically Black colleges and universities and traditionally White institutions and is resolved in making this a launching pad for a national discussion,' said coalition President David Burton. 'Previous actions to address this matter did not result in responsive action that satisfied our understanding of current law; therefore, a lawsuit is in order.'

The suit is based on premises laid out in the Supreme Court decision in {United States v. Fordice}, the higher education equivalent of {Brown v. Board of Education}. The law prohibits states from duplicating programs already established in HBCUs at proximate traditionally White institutions and requires equitable funding of Black and White state schools among other requirements. The intent of the law is to build up and raise HBCUs to a level playing field to draw White, Black and other students and complete the process of integration. Successful examples of that process are Howard University's School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore's hospitality management program.

Here’s a bit of mixed news: while Maryland hate crimes are on the decrease, religiously-motivated crimes are on the rise, according to FBI data. According to Southern Maryland Online:
The numbers of total hate crime incidents slid 20.4 percent from 2004 to 2005 alone, following a decade-long trend, the data show. In 1995, Maryland agencies reported 353 hate crimes, the vast majority of them racially motivated. By the end of 2005, that number had dwindled to 195.

The 2005 data does not include a recent spate of hate crimes in Charles County, where police are investigating at least a dozen instances of racially motivated graffiti and vandalism, or hate crimes in Montgomery County this month involving swastikas spray-pained on vehicles and on a new section of the King Farm development in Rockville.

While Maryland's falling incidence rate outpaced a 6 percent decline nationally in hate crimes last year, the state's police agencies reported the 10th highest incidence of hate crimes among the 48 states that contributed to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

Interesting news.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:54 AM