Election problems slow vote results

March 04, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

Extra steps required of poll workers for Tuesday's primary election - the first using touch-screen voting machines - led to some ballots being turned in later than usual and led to other related problems, Washington County Election Director Dorothy Kaetzel said Wednesday.

Voters told election judges, as poll workers in Maryland are called, that they were comfortable using the touch-screen machines to cast their ballots, Kaetzel said.

The Washington County Board of Elections conducted an aggressive voter-education campaign demonstrating the new voting machines to at least 75 area groups.


But the switch to the new machines meant extra work for the election judges, Kaetzel said.

Election judges normally would finish up at the polling places and leave to deliver the ballots to the Board of Elections Office about 45 minutes after the polls close at 8 p.m., Kaetzel said.

But since they had to take extra steps related to the new machines Tuesday, most election judges did not leave the polling places until about 10 p.m., she said.

After the polling places closed, judges had to take the cards out of the computers, close the computers and seal the machines, Kaetzel said.

"All of that takes a lot of time," she said.

As a result, initial precinct results were calculated and announced later than usual, she said.

Additionally, a judge at the Leitersburg polling place forgot to bring back one card and someone had to go back to get it, she said.

A voting machine at a polling place at South Hagerstown High School stopped working and had to be replaced, as did a computer's memory card, Kaetzel said.

That led to some confusion while the votes were being processed about whether the information had to be entered differently, she said.

There also was a problem at the Smithsburg polling place but it was unrelated to the voting machines, she said. A poll worker incorrectly listed one voter's political party on one document while the voter's party affiliation was listed correctly on a separate document, she said. The result was that the precinct's information was not brought to Hagerstown until after 11 p.m. because election judges were trying to find and correct the error, she said.

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