Maryland: About 1,650 ballots handled improperly in Baltimore election, state review finds | Baltimore Sun

About 1,650 ballots cast in Baltimore’s primary election were handled improperly, a state review has found — prompting some to question the validity of the election results. The State Board of Elections concluded that 1,188 provisional ballots were inappropriately scanned into the vote tally on Election Day — without judges verifying that the voters were eligible — and 465 other provisional ballots were not considered. The board’s findings were released Monday. “In many ways, this is worse than what anybody thought,” said the Rev. Cortly “C.D.” Witherspoon, an activist with Voters Organized for the Integrity of City Elections, or VOICE. “Although we knew there was a problem, we did not know it was to this magnitude. The citizens deserve better.”

Maryland: Board On Baltimore’s Election: ‘We Don’t Know What Happened’ | CBS

The State Board of Elections continues to update its investigation into voter irregularities and fraud in the Baltimore City primary election. All the concerns forced the board to refuse to accept the results of the election. Political reporter Pat Warren has more on what they found, and what’s next. The “who” and the “how” are becoming pretty clear. “The pattern that we saw clearly was that the provisional ballots were scanned in the polling place instead of being held with the applications,” said Linda Lamone, state elections administrator. In some cases, every single provisional ballot that should have been set aside was scanned.

Maryland: 800 improperly counted votes in Baltimore cannot be removed from results | The Washington Post

Maryland elections officials have uncovered nearly 800 improperly counted ballots from Baltimore residents who may not have been eligible to vote, calling into question how poll workers were trained for a new voting system in the April 26 primary. The discovery of hundreds more ballots cast than voters who checked into Baltimore polling sites led to the decertification of that city’s election results. On Thursday, the State Board of Elections discussed the ongoing investigation into the irregularities and how things went wrong. Election judges had apparently scanned ballots cast by people who did not appear on voter rolls, Elections Administrator Linda Lamone told the five-member board. Those ballots were not supposed to be counted until officials verified that the voter was authorized to vote. “This was a training issue introducing a brand-new voting system in Maryland,” Lamone said. “There is no evidence of voter fraud.” Some discrepancies in voters and votes in Baltimore could not be explained, she said. “The numbers simply don’t match,” Lamone said.

Maryland: State review finds ‘significant’ irregularities in Baltimore election | Baltimore Sun

About 1,000 more votes were cast during Baltimore’s primary election than there were voters who checked in at the polls, an ongoing state review has found. State elections officials said Thursday that workers examining Baltimore’s election have uncovered “significant” problems. They have found more than 450 provisional ballots that were not considered by election judges. And nearly 800 provisional ballots — given to voters whose eligibility is in question — were improperly counted before eligibility was verified, officials said. Most of the problems were caused by untrained judges scanning ballots into the system that they shouldn’t have, said Linda H. Lamone, Maryland’s elections administrator. The state might not get to the bottom of every problem, she told the State Board of Elections. “There will be precincts that cannot be explained,” Lamone said. “We don’t know what happened. The numbers simply don’t match.”

Maryland: Investigation into Baltimore elections irregularities nearing an end, state says | Baltimore Sun

State officials said Wednesday their review of Baltimore’s primary election was nearing an end, as they continued to investigate why votes outnumbered check-ins at the polls. Nikki Baines Charlson, deputy administrator at the State Board of Elections, said she expected workers to finish the review Thursday. Officials have focused on 60 precincts — about a fifth of the city’s 296 — where irregularities were “significantly” greater than in other Maryland jurisdictions. “There are probably only 20 precincts left that haven’t been reviewed at all,” Charlson said Wednesday. “We will have looked at 100 percent of the precincts by tomorrow.” Charlson said officials planned to present their preliminary findings at a meeting Thursday of the State Board of Elections.

Maryland: State orders Baltimore’s election results decertified, begins precinct-level review of irregularities | Baltimore Sun

State election officials ordered the results of Baltimore’s primary election decertified Thursday and launched a precinct-level review of irregularities. State election administrator Linda H. Lamone said she became concerned when city officials — who on Monday certified their primary election results — later reported they had found 80 provisional ballots that had never been analyzed. Lamone said the state also is concerned about an unusually high discrepancy between the number of voters who checked in at polling places and the number of ballots cast. The number of ballots cast was higher than the number of check-ins, she said. “Baltimore City was not able to investigate and resolve these issues to our satisfaction,” Lamone said. “We are doing a precinct-level review. We are doing this in fairness to the candidates and the voters.”

Maryland: State elections officials decertify Baltimore election results, investigate irregularities | The Washington Post

Maryland state elections officials have ordered that the results of Baltimore’s recent primary election be decertified after watchdogs and candidates complained that the process was flawed. State Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone said the number of ballots cast in the April 26 contest was hundreds more than the number of voters who checked in at polling places. The state also identified 80 provisional ballots that hadn’t been considered. “It’s important every ballot is counted,” Lamone said. It doesn’t appear likely that the investigation will change the results of Baltimore’s Democratic mayoral primary, where Senate Majority Leader Catherine Pugh finished more than 2,000 votes ahead of Sheila Dixon, a former mayor of the city. Statewide election results in the U.S. Senate and presidential primary cannot be certified until the problems in Baltimore are resolved.

Maryland: State goes back to paper ballots for primary election | Associated Press

Maryland is going back to basics — an ink pen and paper ballot — for this month’s presidential primary. Like every new voting system, this one has some quirks that likely will become more apparent when the November general election brings more than 2 million Maryland voters to the polls. The system requires most voters to mark their ballots by filling in ovals, similar to those on standardized tests, with pens provided by election judges. Voters feed their marked ballots into scanning machines that tabulate the results. The new system largely replaces touch-screen terminals, which eliminated the “hanging chads” and other difficulties in discerning voter intent on paper punch-card ballots highlighted by the 2000 presidential election. Maryland implemented electronic voting in 2002 but glitches and security concerns prompted the General Assembly to vote in 2007 for a return to paper balloting.

Maryland: State may scrap touch-screen machines for early voting, too | The Washington Post

Maryland’s top election official wants to ditch touch-screen machines in favor of paper ballots for early voting before the April primaries because the electronic machines can’t display all candidates on the same screen. Candidates with last names further down the alphabet — including GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump, Democratic Senate candidate Chris Van Hollen, Republican Senate contender Kathy Szeliga and Democratic House candidate David Trone — may be at a disadvantage because of the format, Elections Administrator Linda Lamone said. In addition, it can be difficult to use the touch screens to navigate between multiple pages of candidates. “It would cause confusion to voters, and it would take them a lot more time to vote,” Lamone said in an interview. The State Board of Elections has called an emergency meeting for Thursday to address the problem.

Maryland: Hogan questions reliability of new voting system | Associated Press

Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that he is concerned about Maryland’s new voting system “collapsing” next year due to problems found during testing, but the state’s elections administrator said she was confident in the system, which will have paper ballots as a backup. The voting system came up unexpectedly at a Board of Public Works meeting, when Treasurer Nancy Kopp, a Democrat and one of three board members, asked how the state will manage voter education and outreach after a nearly $1 million contract was rejected by the board several months ago. Hogan, also a board member, said he was more concerned about the condition of the overall voting system, rather than what he described as a public relations campaign. … Linda Lamone, the state elections administrator, said some problems were found during testing, and elections officials are working to correct them. Lamone said officials haven’t verified exactly why there was a problem registering about 3,000 votes in Howard County. She said it appears a memory stick that was taken out of a voting unit and put into another device wasn’t recognized when returned to the system, because it apparently sensed there had been tampering.

Maryland: Agencies spar over readiness of Maryland’s new voting system | The Washington Post

Maryland technology officials are questioning whether the state can successfully implement its new paper-ballot voting system in time for the 2016 election cycle, citing a host of issues that include dozens of unresolved hardware and software problems. David A. Garcia, secretary for Maryland’s Department of Information Technology, last week expressed “strong concerns” to State Board of Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone about the project’s progress, according to a statement on Friday from the Information Technology department. The state legislature approved a switch from digital to paper-ballot machines more than seven years ago, responding to concerns about reliability, accessibility and security with the electronic system. However, lawmakers did not fund the change until last year.

Maryland: On-line voting battle pits the blind vs. the blind | McClatchy DC

Maryland’s Board of Elections fell one vote short last year of the super-majority needed to inch the state toward online on-line voting, despite cyber experts’ warnings that such balloting could easily be hacked, with votes even switched to other candidates. Now, three months before this fall’s elections, the issue has morphed into a legal battle pitting the blind vs. the blind. It’s a fight with plenty of intrigue behind it and nationwide implications in the debate over whether cyber security is ready for electronic voting. The National Federation of the Blind Inc., which touts itself as the recognized voice of blind Americans and their families, filed a federal court suit in May seeking to compel the state elections board to make its newly developed online ballot-marking system available so that all disabled people could cast absentee ballots via the internet this fall. It’s a suit that likely wasn’t unwelcome to the three board members who voted to implement the system and to state Election Director Linda Lamone, a big advocate of electronic voting. But over the weekend, the American Council of the Blind of Maryland, along with three blind residents and two nonprofit groups that have fought internet voting, intervened in the case filed in Baltimore. They contend that the board’s online balloting tool is both flawed and insecure.

Maryland: Blind voters suing elections board in hope of online ballot | Maryland Reporter

A blind voter who had a “horrific” experience voting during the primary election has filed a new complaint against the state election board, adding to the list of grievances in a lawsuit initiated by the National Federation of the Blind in May. One of the original plaintiffs, Janice Toothman, is seeking an unspecified amount of damages for what she says was a bungled voting experience that left her without the ability to vote privately or independently. Toothman, 52, is deaf and blind with a limited ability to hear. … Election officials eventually determined Toothman’s voting card was not properly programmed as a “non-visual ballot,” an observation Toothman originally offered. Toothman’s voting card was updated which allowed for sound in the headset, but Toothman said she had difficulty hearing due to background noise in the voting station and the low volume of the head set.

Maryland: Elections chief predicts smooth absentee voting | Baltimore Sun

Maryland’s top elections official expressed confidence Friday that the state will deliver absentee ballots to voters smoothly and on time despite a change in plans ordered just two months before the June 24 primary. The State Board of Elections decided this week not to move forward with a system that would have allowed voters who receive an absentee ballot through the Internet to mark their choices on a computer screen before printing the ballot and mailing it in. Linda H. Lamone, administrator of the elections board, said the agency will do what is needed to comply with the decision of the five-member panel. … Lamone and her staff have interpreted the board’s action as preventing them from offering the ballot-marking function — which had been eagerly anticipated by advocates for the disabled — but allowing them to go forward with the part of the system that would let any voter go online to ask for and receive an absentee ballot over the Internet. If that interpretation stands, the board decision will be a hollow victory for election security advocates who had opposed both parts of the system. Michael Greenberger, a University of Maryland law professor, said the delivery system opens the door to election fraud much wider than the marking tool would have. Greenberger contends that the two systems are inseparable and that the board’s decision to offer online delivery is inconsistent with state law. He said he does not plan to sue.

Maryland: Election Chief Says Early Voting Proposal Reverses Fraud Protections | Chestertown Spy

Two lawmakers want to increase turnout by extending early voting through the Sunday before Election Day, a move election officials say would wipe out safeguards that keep people from voting twice. House Ways and Means Committee Chair Sheila Hixson, D-Montgomery, and Del. Jon Cardin, D-Baltimore County, wrote a letter to state elections administrator Linda Lamone June 6 asking for the change. Cardin serves as the Ways and Means subcommittee chairman for election law and is a probable candidate for attorney General in 2014. The delegates argued an extra weekend could increase voter turnout. “Maryland’s early voting period remains one of the most limited in the nation,” Hixson and Cardin wrote. “The Brennan Center for Justice recommends allowing early voting on the weekend before Election Day, because early voting turnout increases as public excitement and media coverage of the election build as Election Day approaches.”

Maryland: $350,000 for nine months of work? | Washington Examiner

After three years of delay, Maryland elections officials are finally replacing the state’s aging touch-screen voting machines with ones that can optically scan paper ballots in time for the 2016 presidential election. However, an April 12 story in the Maryland Reporter noted that they are planning to spend virtually all of the $1.2 million budgeted for the transition on just five outside contractors. Election Board Administrator Linda Lamone, who previously stated that the switch would occur “over my dead body,” has recommended paying the yet-to-be-hired senior project manager $350,000, the deputy project manager $300,000, two business analysts $210,000 each, and a technical writer $170,000 for just nine months of work.

Maryland: Contractor salaries questioned as state moves to paper ballot voting system | Maryland Reporter

State election officials are planning to spend up to $1.2 million to hire just five contractors working for nine months, a high-dollar figure that has shocked key lawmakers and voter advocacy groups watching as the state transitions from touch-screen voting to paper ballots. The transition, which is scheduled for the 2016 presidential elections, will move the state from computerized voting without a paper trail to optical scan paper ballots. Under the recommendation of State Election Board Administrator Linda Lamone, the state budgeted $1.2 million for the five positions handling the initial transition. The elections budget calls for the senior project manager position to receive up to $350,000, the deputy project manager $300,000, two business analysts $210,000 each and a technical writer $170,000. The budget figures are estimates, since the elections board has not yet selected contractors. … State Election Board Deputy Administrator Ross Goldstein defended the expenses. In an email, he stated that the state estimated the cost using an existing state agency master contract for consulting and technical services. In that contract, vendors stated how much they will charge for a given service. “We used an average from different vendors under the master contract to come up with our estimates for each of the labor categories we need,” Goldstein stated.

Maryland: Outdated voting machines will not be replaced before 2014 election |

When the gubernatorial election rolls around next year, most of Maryland’s touch-screen voting machines will be past their prime. The state is already facing a shortage of voting machines, with only four jurisdictions in the last presidential election providing enough to meet state regulations. In 2014, voting machines in 23 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions will be at least 10 years old, reaching the limit of the manufacturer’s guarantee. Roughly a third of these machines will have exceeded their useful life as determined by the manufacturer. State voters will have to wait three years before they can use upgraded voting machines with a verifiable paper trail, a delay which is angering election reformers. “If we had the money put into the 2013 budget, we’d have had a shot,” said Linda Lamone, administrator of the State Board of Elections, during her testimony Friday before the Senate Health and Human Services Subcommittee.

Maryland: Online ballot marking for absentee voters approved, but potential for fraud questioned |

Thousands of absentee voters from Maryland will be the first to mark their ballots online this fall, as the attorney general gave the green light to the State Board of Elections Thursday. But at least one advocacy organization said the new online ballot marking program, along with the state’s just started online registration process, is open to voter fraud. The long-awaited formal opinion from the attorney general  gave the elections board the official OK to implement online ballot marking software without having to undergo state or federal certification, which a watchdog group opposed. The five-member board voted unanimously during their monthly meeting to proceed with the new online tool. The ballot marking “wizard” will allow military and overseas voters, also referred to as Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) voters, to mark their absentee ballots online, a step designed to make the final processing of their ballots more efficient, the state board said. After the approval, a voting rights advocate told the board about a possible security vulnerability, one she said that would not only affect the state’s new online voter registration system but could potentially extend to the November elections.

Maryland: State rolls out online voter registration | Washington Times

Maryland residents can now register online to vote using a new Web-based system. The Maryland State Board of Elections began promoting its new online-registration system with tweets from Gov. Martin O’Malley on Tuesday. The system has been available since July 9 and had been in the works for longer than a year. “It’s been on our radar screen for a while,” said Mary Cramer Wagner, director of voter registration for the state board. “You always want the next best thing.” People wanting to vote enter their personal information and driver’s license or state-issued ID numbers on a website. The license and ID numbers are cross-referenced with the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to ensure validity. Military members stationed overseas can register online to vote using the last four digits of their Social Security number instead. If a resident doesn’t have a driver’s license or state-issued ID and is not actively serving overseas, he or she still needs to sign and send in a voter-registration application. Residents required to mail applications can use the new website to fill them out before printing them.