The Hogan administration has raised concerns that Maryland’s new $28 million voting system may not be ready for the April 26 primary, but the state’s top election official has rejected the idea of delaying the launch and using old machines. In a memo to the State Board of Elections obtained by The Baltimore Sun, elections administrator Linda H. Lamone warned that continuing to use Maryland’s old touch-screen voting system would be “very risky.” Lamone told board members that “it has been suggested” the state use the older system for the primary with an eye to implementing the new one for the November general election. Her memo did not specify who offered the suggestion, but the Hogan administration acknowledged Friday that its Department of Information Technology had raised “grave concerns” about the state’s new paper-based system.
The National Federation of the Blind has sued Maryland election officials, charging that their April decision not to approve a system that would make it easier for disabled people to cast absentee ballots privately violates federal law. The Baltimore-based federation filed suit this week asking the U.S. District Court to order the State Board of Elections to provide that technology in time for the June 24 primary election. “The right to a secret ballot that can be filled out privately and independently is just as important to people with disabilities as it is for other voters,” said federation spokesman Chris Danielson. The board decided April 24 to overrule its professional staff’s recommendation that it allow the use of ballot-marking technology, an electronic tool that allows a blind person or someone who doesn’t have use of their arms to mark their absentee ballots on their computers before printing them out and sending them in. Special audio systems can help disabled voters who go to the polls, but some blind and other disabled voters say they have had to ask for help in casting an absentee ballot. Board members were swayed by arguments by some computer scientists and ballot security advocates that the system has shortcomings that would open the door to widespread voter fraud. The decision outraged advocates for the disabled because they had worked with the elections board staff for months to help develop the technology.