In Baltimore Co., counting ballots easier said than done ELECTION 1994

November 12, 1994|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Sun Staff Writer

If none of Baltimore County's 6,567 absentee ballots had been challenged, and if the printer had used the right ink on the ballots, a computerized counter would have zipped through them in two hours.

But because every ballot from Tuesday's general election is under intense scrutiny and more than half are being challenged, it could be well into next week before a count is complete, Doris J. Suter, the elections board administrator, said yesterday.

The computer was unreliable because the printer used the wrong ink on the ballots, forcing Mrs. Suter to call in a dozen special employees to enter the absentee votes manually into three voting machines.

But she said it's the challenges, and not the computer, that are really delaying the count.

The printer will be penalized for not following the specifications for the ballots, Mrs. Suter said. "He is going to be billed for the extra work and it's going to run up there, thousands of dollars."

Mrs. Suter said she has examined several different automated systems as the county makes plans to replace its aging, mechanical voting machines with a computerized system.

Computerized systems use ballots on which the names of the candidates and other instructions are printed in a special ink invisible to the ballot reading machine. Only the marks the voters make on their ballots are supposed to be visible.

The electronic ballot-reading system being tested at the elections board headquarters was used for the first time to count the relatively small number of absentee votes cast in the Sept. 13 primary, and it worked perfectly, Mrs. Suter said.

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