Cumberland Times-News

Editorials

November 24, 2013

Paper ballots

Switch from computerized voting like step backward

Plans calling for Maryland elections to go back to the days of paper ballots seems to us to be a regression.

By the 2016 presidential election, the state will replace touch-screen machines and make a fundamental shift to the way voters cast ballots. When a demonstration of the new paper ballot scanning process was held in Baltimore, there were more than a few elections officials who seemed skeptical about doing away with electronic machines and going back to paper voting.

Over the last couple of decades, a substantial amount of money has been spent in Maryland’s 23 counties and in Baltimore to replace the old lever-pulled voting machines with electronic voting screens. “This is a big transition for us,” said Montgomery County Board of Elections Deputy Director Alysoun McLaughlin. “Everything from set up, to warehouses, to the voting experience is based around touch screen (voting) machines.”

In 2007, legislation was enacted requiring the state election system to produce a voter verifiable paper record for each vote cast in the election. Election officials resisted the move because they were convinced of the integrity of the computerized voting, despite its lack of a paper trail. Paper ballots lead to more inaccurate and miscast votes which touch-screen voting does not permit, they said.

The worry about whether electronic voting is accurate and verifiable seems to us to parallel the fiasco involving the Obamacare website. How difficult, with today’s technology and computer expertise, is it to have an electronic voting system that has integrity and accuracy?

Apparently state officials think it is too big a task to pull off. Instead, they will put the state back to a paper voting system that should in this day and age be regarded as antiquated.

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