Baltimore County is ordering extra ballot scanning machines for four dozen of the county’s busiest polling locations — far fewer than the 200-plus scanners sought by county elections officials. Rob Stradling, the county’s information technology director, said Tuesday that paying for 47 scanners for polling sites and five backup locations represents a “fiscally responsible” solution to easing lengthy backups that frustrated voters during the 2016 election. Stradling said the additional machines and other changes — such as having existing machines serviced, having manufacturer representatives on hand on Election Day and tweaking training for election judges — should make the voting process more efficient. His office spent five months researching the problem and posted its findings online Tuesday. But the county’s top elections official had sought much more. Director of Elections Katie Brown has previously asked the county to purchase a second ballot scanner for each of its 236 polling precincts. Only one precinct had two scanners in 2016.
When the scanners malfunctioned at other precincts or when polling places experienced a high volume of voters, it led to bottlenecks, said Brown. “We saw in 2016 that once the line backs up, due to whatever reason at the scanning location, it’s hard to recover from that,” Brown said.
Brown said she wants to have two ballot scanners “just about everywhere” for the 2018 elections. That way, lines to scan ballots should be shorter, and there’s a redundancy if one of the scanners breaks down, she said. “I want to make sure everyone has what they need to get out there and vote,” Brown said.
Some jurisdictions, including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, had two scanners at each polling place in 2016, according to Linda Lamone, state elections administrator.