PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY – Voters on Tuesday were greeted by ballpoint pens and manila folders, using office supplies instead of modern technology to make known their choice of candidates for elected office. The April 26 primary election was the county’s first to use the new paper ballot system mandated by the Maryland General Assembly in […]
PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY – Voters on Tuesday were greeted by ballpoint pens and manila folders, using office supplies instead of modern technology to make known their choice of candidates for elected office.
The April 26 primary election was the county’s first to use the new paper ballot system mandated by the Maryland General Assembly in 2007. The rollout was delayed due to lack of funding, but for this year’s contest, everything was ready to go. The new system required voters to fill out paper ballots in black pen and scan it through a machine that reads the ballot using optical scanners much like scantrons used in standardized testing.
While voters in Baltimore City complained of a lack of materials, like pens, at polling places, in Prince George’s County the implementation of the new system went much smoother, according to the county board of elections.
“We were very pleased with this roll-out,” said Alisha Alexander, director of the county board of elections. “From our perspective it went very well. We had positive feedback from the voters and minimal complaints.”
Evelyn Shipmen-Clark, who went with her son Scott Shipmen to vote at the Rollingcrest-Chillum Community Center, said this was the first time she had ever used a paper system and she had an issue with scanning her completed ballot.
“I don’t know what was wrong, because mine came back. There were some glitches that caused that to happen because I did another one exactly the same way and it went through,” she said.
Alexander said the board of elections did receive complaints about a particular voting unit that did not read the ballots voters tried to scan. That unit was replaced with another, she said.
Voters on the ground gave the new system mixed reviews.
“It was very smooth, no problems. I spent maybe 10 minutes or so. I like this system. It is very efficient,” Rita Pyuzza said after voting at Duval High School in Lanham.
College Park voter Will Sellers said the system was useful for residents who might not be as tech-savvy.
“It’s good for some people. Some people are not well versed in the usage of touch screens,” he said.
Fatu Fornah, who voted in Chillum, said there were plenty of poll volunteers on hand to smooth the process.
“People where helpful. There was a lot of assistance there, they work you through it. This was my first time voting so, it wasn’t that hard,” she said.
Still, other voters greeted the new system with some reservations.
Terri Oates was not enthusiastic about the new system, but said she understood the rationale behind it.
“I thought it was okay. I realize the effort that’s trying to be made to make it as fair as possible,” she said.
Other residents were not pleased with the change. Twitter users noted that there was no confirmation that the votes were recorded as the voter intended them to be and other complained about not knowing there was another side of the ballot.
Faith Rodell of College Park said she preferred the old system of touch-screen voting.
“The paper ballot is kind of archaic. Why are we filling in spots with a pen?” she said.
Sandra Tyson of Chillum also preferred the old touch-screen system.
“It was okay, but I liked the machines better,” she said. “I think we went back in time a little bit because I liked the electronic system better.”
Overall, 168,456 ballots were cast county-wide, including those completed during last week’s early voting. In total 38,371 Prince Georgians took advantage of that option from April 14 through 21, a number accounting for 7.67 percent of registered voters. This is squarely in the middle of the pack of other Maryland counties who utilized early voting. Absentee voting figures have not yet been calculated.
Using that early voting figure, the percentage of registered voters who turned out on Tuesday is approximately 33 percent.
Alexander said this was “about equal to previous primaries.” Nationwide, primary elections tend to have lower voter turnout than general elections.
Candace Keyes, Matt Beinart and Brianna Rhodes contributed to this report.