Touch Screen Votes No More For Md.

SNOW HILL — With the 2014 mid-term election in the books and preparations for the 2016 General Election already underway, voters in the state will have to adjust to another change in the voting system the next time around.

Late last month, the State of Maryland inked a $28 million-plus contract with a Nebraska company to replace the existing touch-screen voting system with an innovative and secure paper ballot scanning and vote tabulation system. After concerns were raised with security and accuracy of the paperless touch-screen system following the election in November, the state has contracted with Elections Systems and Software LLC to switch back to a paper ballot system for 2016 and beyond.

As a result, jurisdictions all over the state including Worcester County will make the switch back to a paper ballot system. Worcester County Board of Elections Director Patti Jackson said this week her department is already preparing for the change.

“It’s going to require a good bit of work in the transition, but it should be smooth,” she said. “We came from a paper ballot system before, so it’s not something we’re totally unfamiliar with.”

Jackson said the new system represents a change back to the paper ballot system with state-of the-art technology backing it up. She said her department will train on the new system before educating the voting public on the change.

“Voters will get a paper ballot that they fill out and feed into the machine,” she said. “We’ll have demonstrations on it and get everybody up to speed, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. We’ll probably start training on them and have seminars for the public sometime late in 2015 in advance of the 2016 election.”

During the 2014 General Election in November, concerns were raised about the lack of a paper trail with the touch-screen system. Jackson said she heard no complaints with the touch screen system locally, however.

“It’s really just a different tool to do the same job,” she said. “We didn’t have any problems with the touch screen systems, but there were concerns raised in other areas around the state because there was no paper trail. We didn’t have any of those problems here.”

Jackson said the state will shoulder the cost of the new voting system and the state board is expected to pick up the old touch screens and replace them with the new system although there is no firm timetable for the transition. However, not all of the touch screen machines are going away.

“We’ll still have one touch screen at each polling place for voters with special needs such as a vision problem for example,” she said.