Predicting long delays at polls, group urges paper ballots in Nov.

July 24, 2008|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,Sun reporter

A group that has protested the state's use of electronic voting machines is advocating the use of paper ballots in the November presidential election in case of long lines at state polls.

SAVE Our Votes released a report yesterday predicting that some voters could wait hours to cast ballots in the Nov. 4 election. The study, by physicist William Edelstein, found that voters at most polling places could experience waits of more than two hours.

Edelstein, a member of SAVE Our Votes, a nonprofit group that advocates for secure, accessible and verifiable elections in the state, said that even if the state brings in additional voting machines, the flood of voters could be overwhelming.

"There is no doubt that many voters who cannot wait will leave without voting, including the elderly, the infirm, people needing to get to work, or parents needing to care for children," he said in a statement.

Elections officials said they have been in contact with members of SAVE Our Votes and are aware of the group's concerns. But they said that they are confident that polling places will be able to accommodate voters. They said there is also a difference of opinion between the two sides regarding the use of paper ballots.

"We have been working hard to put plans in place to make sure that voters don't have to wait in long lines," said Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections.

To avoid delays, Goldstein said, the state is deploying additional voting units to polling places and will provide voters with information to review before they get to the voting booth. The state is also recruiting more election judges and adding polling-place greeters.

Goldstein said that his agency disagrees with SAVE Our Votes' interpretation of state law regarding the use of paper ballots. He said that the use of such ballots would constitute a second voting system. The intention of state law, according to election officials, is to provide voters with a uniform system.

SAVE Our Votes members argue that the state code includes paper ballots as part of the voting system and that the use of the ballots in the election would therefore not count as a secondary system. The group has long been critical of Maryland's electronic voting machines and has supported the use of paper ballots. The state has approved a switch to paper ballots for future elections.

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