Even with the technology available today, Maryland will go back to a paper-based voting system in 2016. The state Board of Public Works last month approved a $28.1 million contract to replace the current touch-screen voting system with machines that scan paper ballots, which can be marked by voters using a pencil or pen. The move comes more than seven years after state lawmakers, seeking a new system with a “voter-verifiable paper record,” approved legislation to replace the touch-screen machines, which have been noted to be unreliable and susceptible to fraudulent activity, according to published reports. Washington County Elections Director Kaye Robucci met with the county Board of Commissioners on Jan. 13 to talk about some of the changes coming with the new system, saying it is expected to be in place for the April primaries of the 2016 presidential election.
Robucci said later in the week that while voters in the county seemed to like the touch-screen voting system, there were others who “never fell in love with it. They didn’t like that they didn’t have a ballot to review, like a paper ballot,” she said. “They were convinced that you could hack the machines. …. We didn’t have any problem with them in Washington County, and it was something that the voters were starting to like, I thought.”
With the new system, voters can mark a blank paper ballot with an old-fashioned pen or pencil — similar to filling out an absentee ballot — or use an “ExpressVote” computer that allows them to make their selections and then print a ballot. Once reviewed by the voter, the completed ballots are then fed through an optical scanner and saved on a small data drive.
“The thing I see is, (the new system) should, in my opinion, solve the problems of doubt,” said LeRoy E. Myers Jr., a former state delegate and current Washington County commissioner. “It should pretty much eliminate any discrepancies.”
In 2002, the state spent $65 million to purchase the current electronic machines that have been in use, but pressure from special-interest groups about glitches and the possibility of “fixing” machines a number of years later prompted lawmakers to turn back toward paper ballots, according to Myers and published reports.