Maryland connects a final piece to the electronic voting puzzle

Maryland connects a final piece to the electronic voting puzzle

Maryland is taking steps to become one of the first states to have a fully electronic election system, using electronic transfer for everything from voter registration to candidate filings to election day voting.

The Budget and Management Department issued a request for proposals July 17 for Phase 1 of a planned statewide voting system.

Several states are considering or are joining Maryland in the voting system trend. Indiana released a request for information in June and likely will issue an RFP soon. Georgia, Florida and Louisiana also are considering upgrading to a statewide system.

Maryland's impetus came from a gubernatorial task force that called for a statewide voting system. The state legislature approved the task force's report and appropriated $2 million for Phase 1.

Maryland upgraded other parts of its system to handle information electronically in 1999.

'We have a system that does everything electronically but act as a voting machine,' said Linda Lamone, administrator for Maryland's Election Laws Board. 'The entire system will be hooked into the new voting machines and the electronic ones we already own, making the process much better and more efficient.'

Phase 1 of Maryland's project will be to replace four types of voting machines'one punch card and three lever types'in Montgomery, Prince George's, Dorchester and Allegany counties. Lamone said she expects more appropriated money to come in later years to replace some of the older optical scan machines that make up 79 percent of the machines used in Maryland's 24 voting jurisdictions.

Count me in

The new voting machines will connect to an election management system that was written by state employees and updated in 1999 by Computer Sciences Corp. The system has a database for candidates filing for office, a ballot preparation feature, a vote tabulator and results reporter.

All of the electronic voting machines send election results to the tabulator and reporter through Integrated Services Digital Network lines among the counties and the state board of elections office.

The databases in the jurisdictions with electronic voting machines and the databases in the main office all use Oracle8i and reside on a combination of Hewlett-Packard NetServers. The servers have 266-MHz to 450-MHz Pentium II single or dual processors with 128M to 512M of RAM. All run Microsoft Windows NT.

Lamone hopes to get the four counties online by the September 2002 primaries.

'The governor mandated that we have a statewide system and we think it is doable to eventually have one voting system in all jurisdictions,' Lamone said. 'We didn't want to wait until the federal government gave us money because nothing is certain, and we felt we needed to make some of these changes sooner rather than later.'


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