Who Really Won?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Another Election, Another Debacle

This time, it's Maryland that's caught off guard by having to run an election:

A Montgomery County judge ordered that primary polls in the county remain open until 9 p.m. Tuesday, after human errors with electronic voting machines caused widespread problems, forcing some people to leave the polls without voting.

Ruling on a request from the county's Board of Elections, Circuit Judge Eric Johnson said the polls should remain open for an extra hour because of "emergency circumstances." But the additional voting will be done only by paper balloting, not electronic voting machines, said board spokeswoman Margie Rohrer.

Polls in the rest of Maryland were expected to close at the normal time of 8 p.m.

Election officials in the state's largest and voter-rich jurisdiction failed to deliver computer cards to the county's precincts that would start the electronic voting machines. That meant voters had to use paper provisional ballots while the county scrambled to deliver the electronic cards after polls opened at 7 a.m.

But, don't fret. The MD pols promise to get to the bottom of it:

Maryland's first statewide run of an all-electronic voting system stumbled out of the gate yesterday, with major glitches in Baltimore City and Montgomery County that frustrated thousands of would-be voters and forced election officials in those two localities to hold polls open an extra hour.

The snafus, which also cropped up to lesser degrees in other counties, were so severe that they produced a flurry of finger-pointing between Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates and promised to become an issue in the final two months of the campaign.

Delays in counting votes also left the contests for U.S. Senate and state comptroller - the outcome of which would determine whether incumbent William Donald Schaefer's storied career would come to an end - unsettled early this morning even as supporters gathered at hotels and restaurants anticipating celebrations.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. wasted no time after learning that voters in two of the state's largest jurisdictions were having trouble voting before setting up a toll-free hot line in his office so he could compile complaints.

"We're going to demand answers," he said.

The Maryland Democratic Party and its nominee for governor, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, instead laid the blame at the feet of Ehrlich's nominees to boards of election around the state who manage elections county-by-county.

"We rely on our governor to make sure elections are administered in an orderly way," O'Malley said.