Elections Chief Stars In Diebold Promotion

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 28, 2007

Linda H. Lamone, Maryland's elections administrator, is featured prominently promoting a Diebold Election Systems product that caused delays in last year's elections.

Her appearance in the company's new marketing and sales brochure has critics asking whether she violated state ethics law by publicly promoting a vendor.

"Our election judges just love this product, and so do I," reads a caption attributed to Lamone and placed next to her photograph, referring to Diebold's "ExpressPoll-5000," an electronic poll book that debuted in Maryland in September's primary. "We in Maryland are extremely pleased with the performance of the system during the general election," the caption continues. Lamone is pictured in a state office, smiling and flanked by a Maryland flag.

Lamone, a supporter of Diebold's touch-screen voting machines, said yesterday that she allowed the Texas-based company to feature her to give publicity to electronic poll books.

The poll books allow election workers to verify quickly that voters are in the voter-registration database and eligible to cast ballots. The system crashed repeatedly during the primary, requiring time-consuming rebooting, but was fixed by the November general election, Lamone said.

She said she had issued the same praise for the product in a news release after the election and in testimony before a General Assembly committee in January.

"I don't see it as being much different from responding to a question on how the system performed" in November, Lamone said. She said her intention "was never to endorse the particular product" made by Diebold "but to endorse electronic poll books in general."

Lamone said she was not paid to feature in the brochure, which is being marketed across the country.

But voting rights advocates said there is a conflict of interest because Lamone led Maryland's efforts to purchase touch-screen machines.

"What concerns us is a too-cozy relationship between the administrator and the vendor," said Robert Ferraro of SAVEourVotes. "She's been pushing these Diebold machines all over the country. It's not proper."

Ferraro said his group plans to file a complaint today with the State Ethics Commission.

Jennifer Allgair, assistant general counsel for the commission, declined to comment on Lamone's appearance in the brochure but referred reporters to Section 15-506 of Maryland's code: "An official or employee may not intentionally use the prestige of office or public position for that official's or employee's private gain or that of another."

Lamone, a lawyer, said she contacted the commission yesterday to "seek their guidance" after reporters began calling about the brochure. She declined to say what she learned.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company