Push-button voting New city set-up: Baltimore ditches lever-pulling machines for computerized models.

November 11, 1997

BALTIMORE'S 1994 voting fiasco in the race for governor has finally forced city officials to join the computer age: Over a thousand clunky mechanical voting machines will be replaced next year by user-friendly, push-button models that should provide almost instantaneous results after the polls close.

Best of all, the new system appears tamper-proof. No one can manipulate the vote totals, or transpose numbers on the tally sheet.

For Baltimoreans, this should restore confidence in the city's elections procedures. Instead of flipping little levers next to candidates' names and pulling a large handle to record your votes upon leaving the booth, the new system lets you push buttons next to lighted arrows. Your selections will then appear on a screen. When you are satisfied with your choices, you push the "cast ballot" button and your votes are stored in two places on computer tape.

Since all machines will be tied into a central election computer, there is no need for judges to confirm vote totals on the backs of individual machines, transfer those figures to tally sheets and rush the results downtown for tabulating. Election officials will simply ask the computer for the results after the 8 p.m. closing time.

This avoids the potential for human error by judges. In 1994, miscues by election judges and confusion in how the votes were counted in Baltimore became a major issue in Ellen R. Sauerbrey's lawsuit to overturn the outcome of the gubernatorial election.

Will there be confusion when this $6 million computerized voting system goes into operation next year? Certainly. But we predict city residents will embrace push-button democracy, once they realize that it is quick and easy to use. It puts Baltimore on the cutting edge of election technology instead of 30 years behind the times.

Pub Date: 11/11/97

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