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State likely to miss paper-ballot system deadline

March 5, 2009
Baltimore Sun

Two years after the General Assembly authorized a switch to a paper-ballot voting system, state elections officials warn that no vendor would be able to meet the law’s stringent requirements by tomorrow’s bidding deadline.

Maryland’s move to paper ballots also has raised concerns among the disabled community, which objects to a system that diminishes voting privacy because some would need assistance to complete paper ballots. And fiscal conservatives say the estimated five-year cost of nearly $39 million is too much to pay when the state is struggling to balance its budget.

The problems are so vexing that some are suggesting delaying implementation of a system that provides a verifiable paper trail beyond the 2010 elections.

Lawmakers are considering several bills addressing their 2007 decision to dump touch-screen equipment and buy new optical-scan machines, which read paper ballots filled in by voters with pencil or pen and allow for a manual recount. The decision stemmed from complaints that the touch-screen system was unreliable and susceptible to tampering.

The story continues …..

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