Attorneys for congressional candidate David Trone are demanding that Maryland election officials overhaul the use of touch-screen machines that are to be used by disabled voters in the April primary — but are not programmed to display all candidates on a single screen.
The State Board of Elections voted last month to abandon these machines for general use in early voting because it is difficult to navigate long lists of candidates and could disadvantage those with last names at the end of the alphabet — including Trone, U.S. Senate candidate Chris Van Hollen (D) and GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
Election officials are keeping the touch-screen machines available for voters with disabilities, including blind people, who can’t easily use the alternative paper ballots that are being rolled out during early voting and the April 26 election.
Trone’s campaign objected to elections officials continuing to sanction machines for disabled voters that it deemed “unfit” for general use.
Trone, the co-owner of Total Wine & More, appears as one of two names on the second page of a nine-person list for the Democratic nomination for the 8th Congressional District. Two of his key rivals in the race, state Sen. Jamie Raskin and former news anchor Kathleen Matthews, are on the first page.
His attorneys sent a letter Monday to the Board of Elections accusing the agency of violating a state law that requires large candidate lists to be divided into groups of equal size on ballots.
Election officials have said they did not have enough time to change the programming of the machines to display all of the candidates on one screen and secure the necessary federal approval before the primaries.
“Any contention that it is too late to correct the glaring deficiencies with the (voting) machines rings false,” attorneys Meryl Governski and Hampton Dellinger wrote in a letter to state elections officials.
The Trone campaign filed for a restraining order Friday to block Maryland from printing ballots, but abandoned that effort Monday. Instead, it is pushing for additional measures to limit the use of touch-screen machines and to clearly inform voters of the multiple pages of candidates.
State Board of Elections members approved additional restrictions on touch-screen machines Friday, but stood by the legality of how candidates appear on the screen.
“We have a different view [of the law], and our attorneys are prepared to make that argument if we go to court,” said Nikki Charlson, deputy elections administrator.
Trone’s attorneys said Van Hollen, fellow 8th District candidate Joel Rubin and Baltimore mayoral hopefuls Catherine Pugh and Carl Stokes have shared similar concerns about the machines.