2015 | News

Montgomery County Election Officials Worried New Voting System May Cause Long Waits

County will back state legislation to provide more voting equipment for 2016 general election

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The DS200 digital image scanner that will be used to scan paper ballots next year

Via Montgomery County Board of Elections

Montgomery County election officials are worried the state’s new voting system and high voter turnout could spell long waits during the 2016 general election less than a year away.

Margaret Jurgensen, the county’s election director, told Bethesda Beat the county’s Board of Elections has on multiple occasions over the past year asked the state to help lease more voting equipment that could help shorten wait times.

Montgomery County has announced one of its priorities for the 2016 legislative session is to pursue about $425,000 in state funding to match the county’s funding commitment for leasing additional equipment.

Of foremost concern, according to Jurgensen, are the new DS200 digital image scanners. When the state moves to a paper-based voting system for the 2016 primary and general elections, voters on election day will fill out paper ballots.

Voters will then take those ballots to the DS200 scanners, insert the ballots and confirm the ballot is complete on a touchscreen.

But the state’s initial equipment allocation leaves many of the county’s 233 precincts with just one DS200 scanner, which could lead to voters having to wait until the machine is available to scan their ballots.

“That will work if you have voter turnout of less than 50 percent,” Jurgensen said. “There would be some lines. But if you’re having 80 percent voter turnout, you have to have more equipment.”

Jurgensen said county elections officials are expecting between 70 percent and 80 percent voter turnout at many precincts for the November 2016 election because of the presidential race, and races for seats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

The county did receive enough DS200 scanners to put two of the machines at precincts with more than 4,000 registered voters. Jurgensen said most precincts serve about 3,300 registered voters.

The county Board of Elections would also like more ExpressVote machines. Those touchscreen ballot machines will be used for early voting before the primary and general elections. Jurgensen said the county would like at least 25 ExpressVote machines at each of the nine or 10 early voting locations.

The county is supporting a bill from Del. Eric Luedtke and state Sen. Rich Madaleno that would add a 10th early voting location in Potomac, the solution agreed to by the county Board of Elections last month after a controversy over the relocation of early voting centers.