SIGN OF TROUBLE? Maryland election officials have taken five glitchy voting machines out of service, but Republican Party leaders say that’s not the end of it.
By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org
A “calibration issue” that reportedly flipped Republican votes into the Democratic column isn’t the only problem plaguing Maryland voting machines. State officials say two touch screens malfunctioned during early voting, too.
Now the Maryland Republican Party is calling for an investigation.
INVESTIGATE: Maryland GOP Chair Diana Waterman is calling for an investigation of machines flipping Republican votes to Democrats. Democrats, who control the state government, say they have not heard of any problems.
Nikki Charlson, deputy administrator of the Maryland Election Board, said the problems were limited to a handful of machines in just three counties.
“We took three machines out of service in Anne Arundel, Frederick and Howard counties for calibration issues,” she said. Two other units in Anne Arundel and Howard had faulty touch screens and were removed.
Charlson said she “cannot verify” if all 20 reports of mechanical vote flipping involved switches from Republican to Democrat candidates.
Robyn Sachs, president-elect of the trans-partisan group, Election Integrity Maryland, maintains that every ballot flip advantaged the Democrats.
“One-hundred percent of the reports we’ve had were Republican votes being flipped to the Democrat. Not a single report of the opposite occurred,” Sachs told Watchdog.
Watchdog also received reports of vote flipping in Queen Anne, Montgomery and Carroll counties.
Jim Reed, of Howard County, said the machine he used would not accept his GOP vote for governor after it flipped his choice to the Democrat.
He said the same thing happened in the partisan races for county executive and state comptroller.
“I had to go back and start over each time,” Reed said.
Other voters interviewed by Watchdog took umbrage at the state’s suggestion that “large fingers or long nails” could be to blame.
“I am suspicious of such a response, and certainly not satisfied. My wife has neither long nails nor larger fingers,” said John Sheldon of Anne Arundel County,
Charlson said election staffers could not replicate the vote flips on a dozen machines they tested. All votes from the impounded machines will be counted on Election Day, she said. Early voting ends Thursday.
True the Vote, an election-watch group that sued the Obama administration’s Internal Revenue Service, said computer glitches are to be expected.
“This stuff happens all the time and just needs a calibration,” TTV spokesman Logan Churchwell said from Houston. “Remember, these are machines purchased by cash-strapped government offices from the lowest bidder.”
Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, said the electronic voting glitches did not represent a “systemic problem.”
She advised: “Voters should always check their ballots before finalizing their vote, both in case of user error and in case of a machine glitch.
“But they can also feel confident that their votes are being cast correctly when they vote.
Frederick voter Donna Hamilton remains skeptical.
“The first time my candidate selection flipped I did wonder if I hit the wrong box with my nail,” she recounted. “After that, I was very careful to hit the box with the side of the pad of my finger, just as you have to do with a cell phone. It still flipped my vote over and over.
“I wonder how many people voted ahead of me that may have had their votes placed in error. Why aren’t the machines carefully checked and verified to be accurate prior to being put in service?” she asked.
Maryland’s Diebold machines — like the ones that misfired in Chicago last month— are programmed and tested primarily “in-house,” with occasional support by Election Systems & Software, Charlson said.
ES&S is also a contracted vendor in Illinois.
“The machines are only as reliable as the folks maintaining them,” TTV’S Churchwell noted.
Andrew Dodge, a lifelong Montgomery County resident, said he was a ballot box judge and then chief judge for several years before the advent of electronic machines.
“I have no confidence in them. There is no tangible record of anyone’s vote,” he said.
Kenric Ward is a national correspondent for Watchdog.org. Contact him at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward