Despite fears of a botched debut of Maryland’s new voting machines, state election officials say they received few reports of glitches and voter confusion in Tuesday’s primary.
The election marked Maryland’s long-awaited switch to paper ballots tallied by scanner, nearly a decade after lawmakers decided to ditch electronic machines that leave no paper trail.
Late last year, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and his administration raised concerns about election officials’ rushing the new machines into service. They relented when the machine vendor, Election Systems and Software, offered to devote additional staff and resources on a successful rollout.
The Senate primary campaign of Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D) said machine malfunctions caused an hour delay in opening polls at the Beth Am Synagogue in Baltimore. A judge ordered four Baltimore polling places, including Beth Am, to stay open for an extra hour because of the delays.
In all, the Maryland State Board of Elections said that 11 scanners and three machines that fill out ballots for voters who are disabled malfunctioned Tuesday but that they were replaced and did not result in lost votes. That’s out of 4,000 new machines.
“The election went very well considering we introduced a new voting system,” said Elections Administrator Linda Lamone. “Our voters reacted very well.”
Democratic lawmakers had also complained about the Board of Public Works’ rejection of a $1 million contract to educate voters about how to use the new machines, fearing delays driven by voters struggling to use an unfamiliar system.
But Lamone said her agency received no reports of widespread delays and long lines.
After election results are certified, the State Board of Elections plans to audit them against the paper ballots.
The primary also marked an expansion of early-voting sites and the introduction of same-day voter registration during early voting.
Measures to make it easier to vote may have contributed to what’s expected to be an uptick in voter turnout, in addition to high-profile races for an open U.S. Senate seat, two open congressional seats and the Baltimore mayor’s race.
Lamone says early estimates suggest that turnout was about 45 percent of eligible voters.
That compares with just 21 percent in 2012, when President Obama was uncontested in the presidential primary. It’s roughly on par with the 43 percent turnout in 2008 when Obama and Hillary Clinton were competing in the Democratic primary.