By Caitlin Whalan
The gubernatorial race in Maryland, the notoriously blue state, was tighter than anticipated. Larry Hogan, the Republican nominee, narrowly beat out the Democratic candidate, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown. Now that the dust is beginning to settle from the shocking upset, a new issue is creeping into the forefront: faulty voting machines.
Although complaints of faulty voting machines during election time are hardly new, the prospect is always a little unsettling. In Maryland, the problems began cropping up during the early voting period. Many believe the problem was due to some voting machines’ calibrations. The selected choice and the visual on the screen seemed to be out of sync. Before the end of the early voting period, the Maryland Republican Party had received complaints from over 50 voters across Maryland who said the voting machine flipped their Republican vote to the Democratic candidate. On all of the Maryland ballots, the Democrat candidate for governor, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, was listed above the Republican candidate, Larry Hogan. Under Maryland election law §9-210(j)(2)(i), the majority party candidate is always listed first on the ballot followed by the candidate of the principal minority party. Joe Cluster, the director of the state Republican Party, indicated in the Baltimore Sun, that the flipping reports were primarily affecting Republican voters because of the display of the candidates on the ballot.
In a statement from the Maryland State Board of Elections on October 28, 2014, in response to the early voting period flipping reports, the State Board of Election ensured that all voting machines were tested and calibrated before the early voting period. As of October 28th during the early voting period, the State Board of Elections had received reports that about 20 voting machines had displayed a candidate different from what the voter had selected. The Maryland State Board of Elections indicated that 12 of the voting machines were tested and the problem was unable to be replicated, therefore those voting machines continued to be in use. It was reported that only three voting machines were removed during early voting due to calibration issues. The State Board of Elections also indicated in its statement that the State receives similar reports every election and “errors are almost always shown to be caused by inadvertent voter error.”
The alleged flipping problem did not come to a halt after the completion of the early voting period. On Election Day, the Maryland State Board of Elections received over 50 reports of voting machines previewing a different candidate than the voter selected. Ten voting machines were removed from Anne Arundel County due to reports of voting irregularities. In total fifteen machines were removed across the state. The reports of faulty voting machines on Election Day did not seem to be concentrated in a certain part of the state like in Virginia, which seemed to have a concentration of glitches in the southeastern part of the state, but instead the reports spanned all across Maryland.
Some voters were concerned that if they had not been very careful, they would have missed the flipping mistake. Voters do look at a preview screen before casting their ballots. However, this is not a perfect safety net. On the bright side, the Maryland Board of Elections has not received any reports that a voter was unable to fix their ballot.
Maryland voters have voted on the current voting machines since 2002. The current voting machines used in Maryland are DRE machines. In terms of technology, these voting machines are ancient. This same voting system is used in Georgia, Virginia, and Texas. These three states, along with many other states, experienced voting machine glitches during this election. Looking toward the future, Maryland will be getting a new optical scan system for the 2016 Presidential election. Unlike the current voting machines, the new paper voting machines will create an audit trail. These new machines will be the real safety net that everyone is waiting for because there will be paper evidence if there are any mishaps. This means a victory for everyone and the dinosaurs can finally be put to rest.