Md. GOP reports more flipped votes, questions machines

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Republicans say they continue to hear from voters complaining that voting machines are flipping their selection to candidates they didn’t choose.

“We have reports from 14 counties at this point that have recorded inaccurate votes,” Dirk Haire, an outside attorney for the Maryland State Republican Party, told reporters at an early voting center in Annapolis. “As of 11 o’clock this morning, the Hogan campaign received it’s 50th report.”

Businesman Larry Hogan is running for governor and faces Democrat Anthony Brown for the state’s top leadership post.

The Maryland State Board of Elections has logged less than 20 complaints out of more than 160,000 votes cast during early voting, says Nikki Charlson, deputy state administrator with the board.

Although Haire told reporters that the “flipped” votes appear to be related to calibration issues, Charlson says there have been a total of three machines that have calibration issues, and those were taken out of service.

“We want to be clear about one thing: These machines are old. And voters need to be warned that they need to check and double check their votes before they’re cast,” Joe Getty, the state Senate Minority Whip, told reporters.

Charlson agrees that voters need to check their screens before casting their ballots. She says that’s exactly what that voter summary page is for and that’s how the flipped votes were detected.

Charlson says in most cases, the problem is user error. A voter might tap the screen outside of the zone that triggers the voter’s selection, or voters might place a palm on the screen while casting their ballots.

But members of the GOP, including Sen. David Brinkley, Delegate Kathy Szeliga and Delegate Nic Kipke, argue that the cause isn’t user error, but outdated machinery.

In 2007, there was a push in the Maryland General Assembly to put new machines in place by the 2010 election. The machines are now 12 years old, Getty says.

Each machine used in the early voting was tested and calibrated before voting began. When complaints are received the machines are tested again to see if the errors can be duplicated. If they can’t, the assumption is that user error caused the problem, Charlson says.

Officials with both the board of elections and the state Republican party agree voters shouldn’t leave the voting booth without having their problem addressed.

Charlson says an election judge can walk a voter through the process if they have any questions, or if the machine they are using appears to be glitchy. If any voter can’t get the matter straightened out on the spot, she advises that voters call 1-800-222-VOTE to reach the state board.

When voters wait to report such a problem days after they’ve cast their ballot, there’s almost no way to pin down what the issue could have been, Charlson says.

Marylanders head to the polls Nov. 4 to choose a new governor and lieutenant governor, elect state senators and delegates and decide local races.

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WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @kateryanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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