Carroll to use new system for voting


A story in Sunday's Carroll County edition of The Sun on a new voting system should have stated that when voters chose more than the maximum number of candidates in a particular race under the old system, only the votes for that race were invalidated.

The Sun regrets the error.

Starting with the primary election in September, Carroll County voters will begin using a new system, the Optech III-P Eagle, Board of Elections officials said Friday.

Under the old system, voters punched holes in ballots that were counted at the county office building in Westminster.

On the new ballot, voters will connect the head and tail of arrows next to their chosen candidates, using the provided markers.

They then will feed ballots into a machine the size of a computer printer, which will tabulate votes from that precinct on the spot. When the polls close, election judges will carry a computerized tape from each machine to the elections office in Westminster to be combined with the results from other precincts.

"In 1993, the county advised us that we would have to have a new system for September of 1994," said Rosemary L. McCloskey, county elections director. "As early as 1991, the county commissioners told us that an upgrade of the county computer was anticipated."

After the computer was upgraded, it would no longer accept data from punch cards such as those used in elections, Ms. McCloskey said.

Board members, working with representatives of the Democratic and Republican central committees and other civic groups, chose the Eagle because it allows voters to correct mistakes, she said.

If a voter using the old system accidentally submitted a blank ballot or one that was incorrectly marked, the entire ballot would be invalid and the votes wouldn't count, she said.

The new system will not accept a defective ballot, indicating to the voter that it must be corrected and submitted again, Ms. McCloskey said. The computer will also reject ballots marked with votes for more than the maximum number of candidates in a category, she said.

"The philosophy now is that, if it is possible for a jurisdiction to use precinct-based counting, they should, because it allows corrections by voters who over-voted and blank ballots can be corrected," she said.

County officials chose to lease the Eagle for seven years rather than buy it, she said. The lease -- which provides service, from printing of ballots to computer maintenance on the 45 machines -- is $9,000 a month, $756,000 for seven years. The county also has the option of buying the system for $1 after seven years, Ms. McCloskey said.

"This system is capable of carrying us into the next century," said Leo F. Kuhn, president of the Board of Supervisors of Elections.

Washington, Frederick, Harford and Kent counties will also be using the system for the first time this year, Ms. McCloskey said. Anne Arundel and Howard have been using an earlier version of the system for at least four years, she said.

Carroll County officials are leasing one computer for each of the 41 precincts and four backup computers that run on 12-volt batteries in case of a lengthy power outage.

Each household with a registered voter will receive a pamphlet ++ about the new voting method within the next few weeks, Ms. McCloskey said.

Organizations interested in receiving a demonstration should call the county Board of Elections at 857-2080.

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