Voters in Maryland will be casting their votes with black pens and paper ballots in the upcoming presidential primary, nearly a decade after lawmakers decided to get rid of touch-screen machines that leave no paper trail. The search for new equipment was mired in delays and setbacks before the state finally approved a $28 million contract last December. And even with the new ballots and scanners in hand, Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration has raised questions in recent weeks about whether the state is headed for disaster in its rush to get them up and running. Rockville and College Park deployed the new machines without trouble in their fall municipal elections, but the April 26 primary election will be the first statewide test of the new system. Voters will be casting ballots in the presidential primary and in heated races to nominate candidates to succeed Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) in the U.S. Senate and to fill two open congressional seats.
Under the new system, voters will fill in their choices on a paper ballot and run it through a scanner that tallies up the votes. The paper goes into a box and is available for recounts, the crucial feature missing from touch-screen machines.
Maryland’s Department of Information Technology last month urged delaying the implementation of the new voting machines because of dozens of hardware and software issues that were being revealed in testing. Elections administrator Linda Lamone, who operates independently of the governor’s office, insisted that the project move forward and said any problems could be resolved.