Mayfield resident John Raine, the first in line at his polling place on Election Day last month, can understand why the city’s election results are now in question. When Raine, 30, checked his ballot folder, he saw that poll workers had given him five blank ballots. And when he approached the scanner machine, no election judges were around. “I could have scanned in all five,” he said. “But I didn’t. I called the judge over.” Voters like Raine are feeling less confidence in the electoral system these days, as the state steps in to review irregularities at some polling places during the April 26 primary. With elections ever more partisan and many highly contested races ending in narrow vote margins, election watchers say people are more concerned than ever about ballots being tallied accurately.
“Who wins matters,” said Michael Hanmer, an associate professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park who researches voting issues. “Making sure the process is working properly and having confidence that they got it right is critical.”
State officials are investigating discrepancies between the number of people who checked in and the number of ballots cast at polling sites, as well as how provisional ballots were counted. Linda H. Lamone, the state election administrator, said city poll workers appear to have put some provisional ballots into scanning machines to be counted on Election Day, rather than putting them aside to be verified later.
“We’re in an era of distrust and disbelief in every government agency, and this unfortunately reinforces that,” said Herb Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College. He previously was a member of, and then a consultant to, the city elections board.