Sanction of Touch-Screen Voting Machines Under Review

By Maryland Notebook
Sunday, July 8, 2007

Montgomery County's ethics commission has agreed to look into the propriety of a four-year-old endorsement by county elections chief Margaret Jurgensen of touch-screen voting machines produced by Diebold Election Systems.

Robert Ferraro of the advocacy group SAVEourVotes said Ethics Commission Executive Secretary Barbara McNally had agreed to put the matter on the panel's July 24 agenda. Ferraro said he believes that the endorsement, in a brochure featuring officials from other states, violates the county's ethics law. The Montgomery law forbids county employees from trading on the "prestige of their office."

McNally did not respond to a request for comment, but Ferraro provided an e-mail in which she confirmed that the panel would consider his claims.

Jurgensen said she hadn't seen the brochure, wasn't sure how old it was and had not been paid to endorse the voting machine. "I certainly haven't done anything with them in the past year," she said.

Diebold spokesman Mark Radke said the brochure with Jurgensen's endorsement was produced in 2003. He said he does not believe the company has produced any others in which Jurgensen is featured.

In last year's primary election, several polling places in Montgomery experienced problems with Diebold machines, which are being used throughout the state.

The Montgomery flap follows a similar complaint the group lodged last month against state elections chief Linda H. Lamone for endorsing Diebold's electronic poll book. Lamone asked the company to stop using her image and statements in promotional material after Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) criticized the promotion.

-- Miranda S. Spivack

Pr. George's Board Field Jammed

Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) has a big choice to make: whom to name to fill a vacancy on the county's nine-member Board of Education. On Thursday, he announced that he has 39 applicants.

Yep, that many men and women want to occupy the school board seat vacated by Nathaniel B. Thomas, who resigned last month after a grand jury indicted him in connection with an alleged sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy.

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