Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Getting It Together for November 7th

The blame game is in full swing about the election fiasco. As a result, I am increasingly concerned that the actual issues critical to carrying out the general election are being ignored. Here some issues on which the County Board of Elections needs to focus before the general election:

(1) Montgomery County needs to make sure the cards (VACs) get delivered with the machines. This problem ought to be easy to solve.

(2) The voter check-in machines crashed and then recorded voters as having voted when they were rebooted. This problem needs to be solved or voters could end up disenfranchised. Fortunately, everyone within a precinct should receive the same ballot (unless some council, state legislative, or congressional districts divide precincts) in the general election so this should be a slightly smaller problem than in the primary when the card had to be encoded with the party of the voter to make sure that the voter could cast a ballot in the correct party primary. Still, we need to know if this is a problem with some of the cards or the machines themselves.

(3) There needs to be a backup system in case of voting machine failure other than allowing voters to cast provisional ballots . There should be separate paper ballots available to voters if the check-in or voting machines should malfunction or there is a problem with the electricity. These ballots must be kept separately from any provisional ballots as these backup ballots are not provisional but ballots with votes which ought to be counted. The state may need to pass emergency legislation or enact emergency regulations allowing paper ballots as a backup system. If so, they should do so with dispatch.

(3) Montgomery County should organize and aggressively encourage poll workers to take additional training to avoid further confusion at the polls.

(4) Ballots cast due to extended voting must be cast provisionally according to the law. A new regulation should require the separation of these ballots from regular provisional ballots as there is no question that ballots cast during a period of extended should be counted unless there is a successful court challenge to the extended voting (unless, of course, the voter would normally have had to cast a provisional ballot).

The state clearly needs to reassess its voting technology and the administration of elections. However, there is no time to judiciously study these issues and implement change before the general election. We need to focus on getting the current system to work as well as possible in advance of the forthcoming general election.