Sen. Richard Madaleno said Thursday on the floor of the Senate he was shocked by the news that Maryland will not be replacing old touchscreen voting machines with more advanced technology before the 2014 election. “I was under the impression that we were going to have new voting machines in place by then,” Madaleno said during debate on a bill to make voting easier.
When the gubernatorial election rolls around next year, most of Maryland’s touch-screen voting machines will be past their prime.
The state is already facing a shortage of voting machines, with only four jurisdictions in the last election providing enough to meet state regulations.
In 2014, voting machines in 23 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions will be at least 10 years old, reaching the limit of the manufacturer’s guarantee.
State voters will have to wait three years before they can use upgraded voting machines with a verifiable paper trail, a delay which is angering election reformers.
Tensions were high once again this year as delegates on the House Ways and Means committee debated a bill that would require Maryland voters to present proof of identity at polling stations when voting.
In what has become an annual tradition, Del. Jon Cardin is sponsoring legislation to establish a fund that would finance General Assembly campaigns with public funds.
The bill was applauded by citizens’ and voter rights groups appearing before the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday. It has yet to win approval from both houses of the General Assembly. Cardin, a Baltimore County Democrat, said that he “inherited” the bill from former Del. John Adams Hurson, who retired in 2005.
Requiring voters to show identification in order to vote is a necessary and easy way to prevent voter fraud, Del. Kathy Afzali told her colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee, but other delegates and voter advocates argued that the requirement would prevent people from voting.
Afzali, a freshman Frederick County Republican, has proposed a bill that would require voters to present government-issued photo ID to verify their identity and address in order to cast a ballot. Voters who do not have photo ID, or who have moved and have a different address than the one on their ID, would be allowed to cast provisional ballots.
Tuesday’s election did not alter the Maryland General Assembly in a major way, though Republicans did pick up six seats in the House of Delegates and they lost two in the Senate.
House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller, the Democratic presiding officers, said they expected little change in their chambers or their leadership teams, including committee chairs.
“Did you save the world?” I asked some of the voters who arrived during the first hour of voting on Election Day randomly as they dropped off the smart cards on which Montgomery County’s voting system encodes a voter’s electronic ballot for the touch screen booths.
“I tried,” or “I did my best,” some replied with a laugh as I handed them an “I Voted” sticker and wished them a good day at the office. Those well wishes set the tone for the rest of my 15-hour day as one of a dozen election judges manning one of the polling sites in Takoma Park.
On the jumbo TV screen in the Exhibition Hall of the Timonium Fairgrounds Tuesday night, with the sound on mute, a clearly exuberant Gov. Martin O’Malley gave his victory speech as the crowd watched mostly silent and unbelieving.
Throughout the evening, as one news organization after another declared the incumbent Democrat the victor, members of Bob Ehrlich’s camp still believed he could somehow pull it out.