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RE: Maryland Article
Sue, what does this 3% number reflect?
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]On
Behalf Of Sue Page
Sent: Friday, December 13, 2002 3:10 AM
Subject: Maryland Article
The following article is from the Washington Post. The article was printed
in three different "regional" editions of the paper, and had the following 3
Some Voters Flustered by Computers
Computers Flustered Some Voters, Study Finds
Evaluating The Results Of Bits, Bytes For Ballots
By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 12, 2002; Page AA03
When the long lines began to snake out of the polling station in the
Montgomery County senior community of Leisure World, County Council member
Steven A. Silverman wondered if elderly voters were having trouble with the
state's new computerized voting machines.
"There were many people there who told me they were not computer literate,
that they don't even use ATMs," Silverman (D-At Large) said.
Silverman's hunch now appears to be supported by a comprehensive study of
voters' first brush with computerized voting machines, used for the first
time in four Maryland counties: Montgomery, Prince George's, Dorchester and
Exit polling by University of Maryland researchers found that one-third of
voters who lacked a college education needed help to use the machines;
one-quarter of those who said they had infrequently used computers sought
help with the machines; and about one-sixth of all voters said they got
assistance from election judges.
"What this signals is that there are real privacy issues that need to be
dealt with when voters are using the computerized machines, and there are
serious usability issues that are extremely important," said Paul Herrnson,
who heads the University of Maryland's Center for American Politics and
Citizenship and was co-director of the study.
The General Assembly decided last year to overhaul Maryland's voting system
in response to the Florida ballot count that delayed the results of the 2000
presidential election for weeks.
State budget officials decided to replace outdated systems in Montgomery,
Prince George's, Allegany and Dorchester counties for this year's elections
and to install computerized voting machines statewide by 2006.
The four counties and the state split the $15 million cost of the new
AccuVote-TS system, manufactured by Global/Diebold Election Systems in Ohio.
Although the machines' inaugural run was relatively smooth in the other
counties, confusion reigned in Montgomery during the September primaries.
Several polling places opened late because the equipment was not set up.
Inaccurate results were posted on the county Web site, while judges
struggled through complicated forms and tabulations.
Instead of sending results by modem, poll workers had to drive computer
disks across the county to the elections board in Rockville and faced long
lines upon arrival. And nearly 100 machines were delivered whole to the
county board by frustrated poll workers.
The University of Maryland study, however, focused on the ease of voter use
and tried to gauge how voters responded to the new machines.
In addition to the voters who needed help to fill out their ballots, the
study found that a small percentage of the machines -- about 3 percent --
malfunctioned in some manner.
Most of those problems, the study reported, involved card readers used to
activate the machines. Election judges in some precincts addressed the
problem by inserting the card for voters. Some voters also reported trouble
navigating from screen to screen, especially in the "ballot review" section.
Herrnson said that although 3 percent sounds like a small figure, Florida's
2000 presidential election debacle was a reminder that perfection should be
"In several House races in Maryland, there was voter turnout of 200,000, so
in those cases, 3 percent starts to sound like a pretty big number," he
Herrnson said he witnessed some of the trouble voters were having when he
went to the polls in his hometown of Hyattsville.
"After I voted, I sat down and watched as people raised their hand while
they were voting to ask for help," he said.
He said the study recently was submitted to the state Board of Elections for
review, and he hopes that as the machines become more common, the board will
devote more time to educating the public about how to use them.
Margaret Jurgensen, election director for Montgomery County, said she found
the machines to be popular with voters and was pleased with the initial
experience. She said her staff will continue to emphasize training of poll
workers as well as programs to educate voters on the new machines. "This is
the first year this has been deployed," she said. "There's always going to
be a learning curve."
State board officials could not be reached to comment on the study, but on
Election Day last month, they defended the performance of the new machines,
saying that a few glitches should be expected with a new product.
And in Montgomery County, although some voters had trouble, the problems
were far from universal.
"It was wonderful, and I'm not even computer literate," Winnie Soltz, 62,
told a reporter. The Gaithersburg substitute teacher had just cast her
ballot, without any difficulty at all.
(Note that on election day, we saw the long lines in Leisure World. We
tried in vain to get Montgomery County to deploy 10 more of their 60 "spare"
units to this location. Doing so would have reduced the long lines, and
this article may have been different.
On the flip side - because of lines in some precincts, Montgomery County
will be purchasing additional units - maybe as many as 1,000. Works for