Election Board says local votes safe from Fla.'s fiasco

November 30, 2000

Election Board says local votes safe from Fla.'s fiasco

By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

Washington County won't have Florida's election problems because the county voting system is far superior to those used elsewhere, said Richard Coss, Washington County Election Board president.

"If Florida would have had the system we have they wouldn't have this problem," he said.

The county avoids some of Florida's problems because it doesn't use a punch hole system, he assured the County Commissioners Tuesday.

For example, during the presidential election, 47,604 votes were cast in Washington County. That is out of about 70,000 people so the turn-out was about 68.57 percent, Election Board Director Dorothy Kaetzel said.

Coss said 27 of those voted for more than one presidential candidate.

When that happens at voting precincts, the machine immediately notifies the election worker that the ballot has to be rejected because of the duplication, he said. The voter then gets to try two more times, he said.


About 17 voters using absentee ballots voted for two people for president and weren't allowed to try again, he said.

There were also 88 Washington County voters who didn't vote for anyone for president, Kaetzel said.

In light of the problems in Florida, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook asked for an explanation of how the voting process works in Washington County. Tuesday's presentation was in response to that request.

The county has 51 voting machines, which use optical sensors to assure every vote is counted properly, Kaetzel said. Forty-three were used in the November election and eight served as back-ups.

"It's voter-friendly, it's pollworker-friendly," Kaetzel said.

The county leases the voting machines, which have been used since 1994.

The county has been leasing the machines for $107,624 annually for a seven-year cost of $753,368, she said. The lease ends in July 2001.

The cost of renewing that lease would be less than $80,000 a year, she said.

When the lease runs out, the county can buy the equipment for $1 but would have to pay for storage and upkeep, she said.

County election directors have been encouraged not to immediately pursue purchases of new systems because the Maryland General Assembly is expected to examine the issue of voting machines during the next legislative session, Kaetzel said.

The Election Board is funded by county government, this year at $340,000, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said.

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