ANNAPOLIS – By 2002, all of Maryland’s jurisdictions should be using the same voting systems and procedures, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said Friday.
“In order to ensure that the most accurate systems are available and in use for the 2002 elections,” Glendening said his advisers are recommending “a unified system of both procedures and machines across the state.”
Glendening’s statement came in announcing the release of the final report of the Special Committee on Voting Systems and Procedures.
The committee report stopped short of recommending a switch by 2002, but did support a single statewide system, saying the state “should, as soon as possible, select and certify a uniform, mandatory voting system for use in all jurisdictions.”
That uniform system, the panel said, should be a direct recording electronic system. It recommended an optical scan system for absentee voters.
Baltimore is the only jurisdiction using the electronic system, which employs a touch screen, to select candidates. Nineteen other counties use the optical scan systems.
The report makes no mention of the 2004 deadline proposed by some committee members at their last meeting in February.
Some election officials are skeptical of both the 2002 deadline and of the necessity of a uniform statewide system.
“One size doesn’t fit all . . . what might be good for one area, might not be good for us,” said Bobbie Mack, president of the Prince George’s Board of Elections.
Prince George’s County, one of three jurisdictions still using lever machines, was planning to buy a new electronic system because its lever machines were to be decertified Jan. 1. That plan was put on hold because the state had not certified any of the replacement machines they were considering.
“We were ready to go,” Mack said.
Mack was doubtful any single vendor could produce enough machines in time for a 2002 election.
Marvin Cheatham, an election specialist who served on the committee, praised the governor’s goal, but also was skeptical about a 2002 deadline. Meeting such a deadline is dependent on the availability of funding to help counties purchase a new system, he said. Cost and funding estimates are absent from the report, which says only that the state should create grants to assist counties in paying for new voting systems.
Costs would depend on the kind of machine chosen by the board, said Linda Lamone, of the State Board of Elections, which may not begin the process of selecting a system until its monthly meeting in April.
Funding is up to the governor, Lamone said, and the governor’s spokeswoman said there is a possibility this year’s supplemental budget could contain it.
Some counties would not be able to afford a new system even with state help, one election official said.
“If it required funding from our county, we couldn’t do it,” said Sandra Logan, the election director for Caroline County. “Even if the state paid 90 percent.”
Caroline County purchased its optical scan system in 1998, and voters are very happy with it, Logan said. “There’s no way our county would need a new system. Ours is totally adequate.” – 30 – CNS-3-16-01