Friday, September 3, 2004

Board Begins Process Of Firing Maryland Election Administrator

The Associated Press, September 3, 2004

Maryland's State Board of Elections began the process of firing the state's election administrator, Linda Lamone. Lamone is a key supporter of touchscreen voting machines, and oversaw statewide implementation of $54 million worth of Diebold paperless touchscreen voting machines. She is also currently the president-elect of the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), a self-appointed body organized on behalf of election officials that orchestrates the federal voting equipment testing process.

If she is removed from her post, Lamone will join a number of other election officials who has been removed, resigned or retired this year. Theresa LePore, Palm Beach County FL election supervisor who pushed for and got paperless electronic voting machines, was defeated in her re-election bid this week. Mischelle Townsend, who as registrar for Riverside County was the first to purchase paperless touchscreens in California, retired in July. Laura Winslow, who purchased paperless toucshcreens from Diebold that were not federally qualified, resigned after the March election. In Washington State, David Elliott, who has been a supporter of paperless e-voting, has also recently retired.


Excerpts from the AP story:

A move by the Republican-dominated State Board of Elections to fire state election laws administrator Linda Lamone drew stinging rebukes Friday from Democratic lawmakers who charged that the board is trying to politicize a nonpartisan office.

"This is raw, partisan politics, and smacks of Florida being revisited in Maryland," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, said.

"I can't imaging that the Republicans could trump up any charges that could be sustained in a court of law in terms of reasons for her dismissal," Miller said.

House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, also defended Lamone, saying she "has been acknowledged as running a model election board for the nation."

Miller and Busch noted that Lamone has the respect of election administrators in other states, who have chosen her as president-elect of their national organization.

Busch said it has been the goal of the Ehrlich administration "to take over the election board for well over a year."

Gilles Burger, chairman of the board, said it "is hard to address this kind of perception" that the board was motivated by political considerations.

"I can tell you this has nothing to do with partisan politics," he said.

A statement issued by the board said the members were responding to "several complaints from multiple sources, including several local boards of elections...." about Lamone's performance as head of the office that oversees Maryland elections.


Burger said the board voted Thursday night after meeting privately for more than seven hours to file administrative charges against Lamone. He said he is prohibited by law from disclosing details of the charges, but the law allows her to be dismissed only for "incompetence, misconduct or other good cause."

The next step in the process will be a hearing before an administrative law judge, where Lamone would have the right to contest the findings included in the charges filed against her. Burger said a decision on whether to fire Lamone would not be made until the board received a report from the administrative law judge affirming or rejecting the complaints against the administrator.

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