DES launches push to familiarize MD voters with new voting machines

WASHINGTON: Diebold Election Systems (DES), one of the largest manufacturers of touch-screen voting machines in the country, has begun a statewide campaign to familiarize voters in Maryland with the new machines.

WASHINGTON: Diebold Election Systems (DES), one of the largest manufacturers of touch-screen voting machines in the country, has begun a statewide campaign to familiarize voters in Maryland with the new machines.

The five-year, $1 million effort, similar to an earlier campaign in Georgia, as well as several on the local level, is being run by Compliance Research Group of Lauderdale Lakes, FL.

"Familiarity makes voters much more comfortable with the system and leads to less confusion," said DES spokesman David Bear.

Such campaigns were envisioned in the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which encouraged states to adopt DES-type electronic voting machines in place of outdated punch-card or lever systems. Georgia was the first state to use the machines statewide; Maryland did so for the first time last Tuesday during its Presidential primary.

"Most of [the campaign] is based on doing demonstrations in high-traffic areas," said Bear. "We also have billboards and radio and TV PSAs."

DES has come under fire since a Johns Hopkins University study exposed potential security flaws with the machines. Bear said that his company was countering such criticism through the media and directly with customers, but gave assurances that the Maryland campaign, which is being publicly funded, did not address the issue.

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