ANNAPOLIS – Minor problems with touch-screen voting machines and provisional ballots plagued poll workers on Election Day, but state officials said they were remedied before any damage could be done.
“With a huge enterprise – with lots of people involved – mistakes are going to be made,” said state elections’ chief Linda Lamone, who called the day “typical.”
Linda Schade, spokeswoman for TrueVoteMD, disagreed with Lamone’s assessment.
“It’s clear that there were some serious problems, but what is unknown is how extensive these problems were,” she said. “Linda Lamone is not accurate in saying things went well.”
TrueVoteMD has opposed touch-screen machines because they believe their lack of a paper trail makes them susceptible to fraud and error. They placed about 600 poll watchers in 125 precincts on Election Day, Schade said.
Among the problems reported to the Board of Elections were a handful of voting machines not turning on at the beginning of the day and several with calibration issues, Lamone said. She added that there were no reports of votes being lost because of the malfunctions.
Schade said TrueVoteMD poll watchers also reported incomplete electronic ballots, machines crashing in the middle of voting, SmartCard encoder failures, and touch-screen machines that so frustrated voters that they left the polls without voting. They also received 400-500 calls from concerned voters, Schade said.
Provisional ballots, too, caused their share of problems.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, re-elected Tuesday, said voters complained to his office there were not enough provisional ballots on hand, and that election judges did not understand the ballots.
“The fact is, we’ve got to make sure those provisional ballots are available,” he said Wednesday at a Congressional Black Caucus news conference about election results.
Trudy Perkins, a spokeswoman for Cummings, said his office received about 20 complaint calls.
Hundreds of students at the University of Maryland, College Park, precinct were forced to use provisional ballots after discovering voter registrations with a campus organization were not properly filed with the Board of Elections, Lamone said.
“If they’re registered (in Maryland), all or part of their ballot will be counted,” Lamone said. Provisional ballots will be examined and counted starting tomorrow, with final numbers available sometime next week, she added.
There was some concern before the election that voters uneasy with the electronic machines would ask for the paper provisional ballots as a substitute. However, Lamone said very little of that occurred.
An election judge in Hyattsville said he had only one voter ask for a protest provisional ballot.
“One person wanted a paper receipt, and we explained to him we don’t do paper anymore,” said Joe Hinton. The person ultimately voted on a touch-screen machine.
The elections board also received a report that a TrueVoteMD proponent acting as a poll watcher had to be removed from a Baltimore precinct after “causing a fuss and challenging voters,” Lamone said.
Schade said she had not heard about any such incident, but did not believe it.
“I highly doubt that a TrueVoteMD volunteer would be challenging voters” because it would be counter to the organization’s goal, she said.
More than 3 million Marylanders were registered to vote on Election Day, the most ever for the state. As of Wednesday this had translated into a turnout of roughly 71.5 percent – excluding absentee and provisional ballots – slightly below Lamone’s prediction of 75 to 80 percent, but about the same as the 2000 presidential election.
Sen. John Kerry won Maryland and its 10 electoral votes, beating President Bush 56 to 43 percent, but lost nationwide to Bush, 51 to 48 percent.
Capital News Service reporter Rachael Jackson contributed to this story.
– 30 – CNS-11-3-04