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Paper Ballot Has Md.'s, Va.'s Vote

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Paper Ballot Has Md.'s, Va.'s Vote

2 States Plan to Ditch Electronic Machines, Part of a Rapid National Reversal

By Christian Davenport, Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 30, 2008; Page B01

For full story see…Paper Ballot Has Md.'s, Va.'s Vote

Goodbye, electronic voting. Farewell, fancy touch screen. Maryland and Virginia are going old school after Tuesday's election.

Maryland will scrap its $65 million electronic system and go back to paper ballots in time for the 2010 midterm elections -- and will still be paying for the abandoned system until 2014. In Virginia, localities are moving to paper after the General Assembly voted last year to phase out electronic voting machines as they wear out.

It was just a few years ago that electronic voting machines were heralded as a computerized panacea to the hanging chad, a state-of-the-art system immune to the kinds of hijinks and confusion that some say make paper ballots vulnerable. But now, after concern that the electronic voting machines could crash or be hacked, the two states are swinging away from the systems, saying paper ballots filled out by hand are more reliable, especially in a recount.

The trend reflects a national movement away from electronic voting machines. About a third of all voters will use them Tuesday, down from a peak of almost 40 percent in 2006, according to Election Data Services, a Manassas-based consulting firm specializing in election administration. Every jurisdiction that has changed election systems since 2006 has gone to paper ballots read by optical scan machines, said Kimball Brace, the firm's president. And for the first time in the country's history, fewer jurisdictions will be using electronic machines than in the previous election, he said.

"The battle for the hearts and minds of voters on whether electronic systems are good or bad has been lost," Brace said. The academics and computer scientists who said they were unreliable "have won that battle."

The District has one electronic machine in every precinct. But most people vote on paper ballots, said Dan Murphy, a spokesman for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

In Virginia, the law passed last year prohibits localities from purchasing more electronic machines, also known as direct-recording election machines. It could take years to completely switch to paper.

"I think there's a concern that . . . the votes may not be counted correctly," said state Del. Timothy D. Hugo (R-Fairfax). "And with the [machine] there is no backup, and I think that's the greatest concern."

For full story see…Paper Ballot Has Md.'s, Va.'s Vote

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