Maryland election 2010: Some issues with BaltCo voting machines emerge
Two voting machines at a Parkville precinct were shut down for less than an hour on Election Day morning when three voters trying to choose Republican Baltimore County executive candidate Kenneth C. Holt found the machine was not recording their votes correctly, Arthur Hirsch reports.
UPDATE 6:00 P.M.: The state Republican party send out a news release this afternoon which says about 30 voters have reported similar concerns in more than a dozen counties.
The glitch on the two machines at Pine Grove Middle School was one of a few isolated cases of touch-screen machines not giving voters the choice they wanted, said Katie Brown, director of the county Board of Elections. Brown said she knew of the incident at Pine Grove and two other polling places.
She said the trouble may have been caused by an error in setting up the touch–sensitive screen to record the correct choice. She said it also could be “a matter of the angle of the screen.”
She said election officials are urging voters to review their votes after they have finished making their choices and before they hit the button to cast their ballot.
David Glassman and Joy Rickels, chief judges at Pine Grove, said one voter complained that their choice for Holt instead registered as a “write-in,” and two others said their Holt choice registered as votes for his Democratic opponent, Councilman Kevin Kamenetz. The judges said the problems were corrected and no votes were lost in those three instances.
The machines were shut down for less than an hour at about 11 a.m., Rickels said, then put back into service.
It was not clear if other voters may have made similar errors and not noticed it.
Holt said he’d heard about the problems, and he's been pleased with the Board of Elections’ response.
“They responded quickly and well,” said Holt. “There have not been any widespread concerns.”
He said his own campaign manager, Norman Sines, noticed the trouble during early voting, when twice he tried to vote for Holt and twice the machine registered the choice for Kamenetz. On the third try, the machine recorded the correct vote.
Miriam Barr had to watch her vote carefully, Liz Kay reports, after she had trouble voting at Timonium Elementary Tuesday morning.
At about 10 a.m., she was standing at a machine near the school stage and had successfully chosen her candidate for governor and lieutenant governor. But when Barr, 83, tried to select a senator, Barbara Mikulski’s name popped up.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “It always reverted back to my opposition.”
After three tries to correct it, Barr raised her hand and an election worker came to help. “She tried it, it did the same thing,” Barr said. “She called a couple of people but they never came over.”
The election judge was able to clear the problem by only reverting to the original ballot. Barr was more vigilant at checking her selections that time, and was ultimately able to submit her ballot.
“I checked every one of my votes before I left the machine,” she said. “It took me longer than anyone else but I made sure my votes were right.”
Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator for the state board of elections, added a few other possible explanations for the problem.
People with long fingernails trying to use the pad of their fingers to select their candidates sometimes inadvertently touch the box above with their nail first, he said. Voters with this problem can just use their fingernails or even the back of a pencil or a pen to hit the correct spot. But Barr said her nails are very short. “I can’t get them to grow,” she said.
Machines also get out of calibration, Goldstein said. If election judges could duplicate the problem, they are supposed to shut down the machine and not let others use it. “The calibration is usually pretty good,” he said. Every unit is tested for both calibration and correct ballot counting before Election Day, he said.
“Generally speaking, if a machine is out of calibration, it’s going to be like that for everybody,” Goldstein said.
Barr said she told the poll worker who took her card that the machine was malfunctioning, and he said he would keep an eye on it. “I’ve never had that happen to me — not in the primaries, not last year,” she said.