Readers Speak Out On Paper Ballots In Maryland

March 14, 2009

After reading the editorial "Paper ballot cuts" (March 9), I wonder why it is that half the country can vote on optical-scan machines but Maryland seems unable to make the transition on time.

The rest of the country also has disabled voters. Maryland is not unique in that way. But 31 states have now passed laws requiring a voter-verified paper ballot, and the most common voting equipment used to meet this requirement is an optical-scan machine.

All of these states have certified that they have found voting machines that satisfy federal requirements for voting access for the disabled. So the argument that the disabled would be unable to vote on an optical-scan system is a false one.

The transition to optical-scan voting will actually save Maryland money immediately. Upkeep on the touch-screen machines is more expensive than purchasing optical-scan machines.

And because the state would need only one optical-scan machine per precinct, compared with at least six touch-screen machines, there would be savings in every step of the process.

The state would spend less on upgrades, security, storage, transit and every other aspect of the machines.

The transition to paper ballot-based voting will ensure a voting system that is transparent, secure the possibility of meaningful recounts and lead to tremendous savings of tax dollars.

The General Assembly and the governor need to ensure that this transition takes place on schedule in 2010.

Every year we delay costs Maryland taxpayers money and requires us to vote on paperless, electronic machines that cannot be trusted.

Kevin Zeese, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of

The problem Maryland faces in purchasing a new voting system has nothing to do with any shortcomings of optical-scan voting systems to serve the needs of disabled voters. It is caused by an absurd requirement in Maryland law.

Our law mandates that our voting systems be tested to meet a federal standard that no voting system in use anywhere in the country has been tested to meet. Because of this defect in Maryland law, none of the voting systems for the disabled in use across the country can be purchased for use here.

However, optical-scan voting systems that utilize ballot-marking machines for the disabled can accommodate a much larger range of disabilities than our present voting system can.

The AutoMark ballot-marking machine is used all over the U.S. in conjunction with optical-scan voting systems, and it does not require the paper ballot to be handled by the voter prior to being cast.

Maryland could have the most secure and accessible system in the country, one that would enable every voter to verify that his or her vote had been accurately recorded and allow recounts and audits of election results, if the law is amended to remove the unnecessary requirement that our voting machines meet 2005 federal standards.

Several legislators have offered amendments that could correct this problem, and that is the direction in which Maryland should move.

Robert Ferraro, Columbia

The writer is co-director of Save Our Votes.

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