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It's too late to fiddle with Maryland's election system

September 22, 2006

Tinkering with Maryland's election process will apparently be a bipartisan process in Maryland this year.

That's evidenced by Gov. Robert Ehrlich's hint that he might call the legislature back into session to get the OK to scrap a glitch-prone electronic voting system.

But it would be a mistake to further confuse the process this close to the Nov. 7 general election, when there is a simpler solution available.

There is no doubt that the electronic voting system has some major flaws. Machines abruptly shut down and rebooted themselves, which caused election judges to believe they had crashed.

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In other instances, human error contributed to the confusion. In some cases, the electronic cards needed for voters to operate the electronic voting machines weren't sent to the polling places.

In other areas, cables to connect machines didn't get to the polls or were hooked up incorrectly.

But to scrap all of the technology and return to the old system of checking in voters using computer printouts and a sign-in system would mean retraining election officials and those who volunteer to work at the polls.

Instead, we suggest a simpler solution that is legal. At each polling place, there should be a supply of provisional ballots. These are usually used only when it's not clear that the citizen is eligible to vote.

But the ballots were used in a number of counties when machine problems occurred. The disadvantage is that they will certainly take longer to count.

On Tuesday, The (Baltimore) Sun reported that the primary race between Rep. Albert Wynn and challenger Donna Edwards is still in doubt, and that two state legislative races await a final count.

In a statement, Maryland Senate President Thomas Mike Miller said the state had paid millions for the system and should concentrate on fixing it instead of scrapping it.

Then Miller said that he felt Ehrlich was using the issue to energize Republican voters.

Really? That's rich, coming from a lawmaker who backed early voting and additional polling places in areas where Democrats are in a majority.

Let's get the system fixed if possible, but have an adequate supply of provisional ballots on hand if the fix doesn't work. Turning the system upside-down at the eleventh hour isn't a good idea.

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