POLITICS

Year was filled with massive election problems in numerous Maryland counties

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Politics,Maryland

With widespread election problems and national scrutiny to go along with it, Maryland was essentially 2006’s Florida.

September’s primary debaucle spanned from missing pieces — voter access cards being the most handicapping example — to utter breakdowns — in the case of voting machines themselves — and even no-shows — like judges.

And difficulties were in no way limited to one or even two counties.

Baltimore saw its share of bungles, as did Prince George’s and even less-populated areas of the state.

Montgomery County’s troubles centered mainly on the fact that all of its access cards, so crucial to getting voting going, were left out of workers’ packets, prompting a judge to order the polls to stay open an extra hour. Besides that massive error, voters reported being turned away from certain polling places or choosing to walk away when provisional paper ballots quickly disappeared.

In the days and weeks that followed, Board of Elections spokeswoman Margie Roher explained away the mistakes as tragic oversights.

The problems so shook people’s confidence that a handful of prominent officials — such as Gov. Robert Ehrlich — called for voters to forego using electronic equipment and stick with the safer paper route.

Calls for state elections administrators to ban the e-pollbooks altogether, though, failed in October, with state elections administrator Linda Lamone saying she felt "satisfied" with the security of electronic voting.

Instead, counties pledged to improve their processes. In Montgomery County, Roher emphasized that judges would inspect their election materials sooner in hopes of trouble shooting early. The county also spent almost $40,000 on an audit of the elections board, which revealed gaps in telecommunications between voting precincts.

Despite worries until Nov. 7, voters and experts alike acknowledged that Maryland made it through the general election with much less trouble.

"We learned from what happened," Prince George’s elections administrator Robert Antonetti said.

dlevitz@dcexaminer.com

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