Advantages of Maryland's Voting System
One way to measure the accuracy of a voting system is to calculate and compare voter error rates. The more accurate the voting system is, the fewer number of voter errors there will be. Voter error rate is the number of voters who voted but did not have a vote counted for a specific contest on the ballot (typically President or Governor). This is calculated by subtracting the total number of votes cast for President or Governor from the total number of voters who voted.
Using this measure, Maryland had the lowest voter error rate in the country in 2004. (See Residual Vote in the 2004 Election, CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project.) In the 2004 General Election, only 0.3% of the voters who voted did not have a vote recorded for President. This is a 40% reduction from 2000 – the last election when optical scan and punchcard voting systems and mechanical lever machines were used for polling place voting in Maryland.
Maryland’s transition to a touchscreen voting system from paper-based and older voting systems improved the accuracy of the vote count and reduced the number of voter errors. Our results are consistent with findings reported in the same CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project report, which shows that implementing a touchscreen voting system reduces voter error.
The touchscreen voting system used in Maryland is accessible to most voters with disabilities. Using a headset and keypad, blind voters and voters with visual impairments are able to vote independently and secretly for the first time in the State by listening to the ballot selections and making selections using the keypad. High contrast ballots and magnified or enlarged ballots are also available. For voters who prefer or need to sit while voting, the screen can be adjusted to accommodate this need. Future enhancements include a “sip and puff” device to allow voters with disabilities that prevent arm movement to vote independently and secretly.
On the voting unit, a voter can select the high contrast ballot and the magnified or enlarged ballot. To use the audio ballot option, a voter must simply ask an election judge for this option. A voter will not be required to provide an explanation or fill out additional paperwork. Election judges will be available to answer questions and, if needed, provide assistance.
Brochures describing the accessibility of the voting system are available in various sizes and in Spanish.
- Accessibility Brochure: to print, set printer for 8.5" by 14" (legal-sized paper)
- Accessibility Brochure - Large Print: to print, set printer for 11" by 17" (ledger-sized paper)
- Accessibility Brochure in Spanish: to print, set printer for 8.5" by 14" (legal-sized paper)
- Accessibility Brochure in Spanish - Large Print: to print, set printer for 11" by 17" (ledger-sized paper)
With paper-based voting systems, election officials sometimes have to make determinations as to the candidate or ballot question response for which the voter intended to vote. If a voter erases a selection and makes another one or improperly marks the ballot, the scanning unit may not accurately read the ballot. In this case, election officials must review the voter’s ballot and try to determine which candidate or ballot question response the voter intended to vote for .
With Maryland’s touchscreen voting system, there are no issues of voter intent. The voter makes a selection and has the opportunity to review the selection before casting his or her vote. From the tests conducted on the voting units before each election, we are confident that the voting units accurately record voters' intent and include all votes cast in the tabulation.
Easy to Use
Voting on a touchscreen voting system is easy to do. Voters just touch the screen next to the candidate or ballot question response and move through the ballot. Changing votes is easy – voters just de-select one candidate or question response and select another. Voters of all ages and levels of computer experience report positive experiences after voting on Maryland’s voting system.
A 2006 public opinion poll by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County demonstrates that Maryland voters are very satisfied with the State’s touchscreen voting system. Ninety-two percent of voters who voted in the 2004 General Election had a positive experience voting on the touchscreen voting system. Other findings include:
- 99% of registered voters thought the voting system was easy to use
- 88% were comfortable using the touchscreen voting system
- 84% thought the voting system made voting quicker
- 82% thought their votes were recorded and counted accurately
This report and survey by UMBC on Maryland voters’ opinions about the voting system shows that Maryland voters think the voting system is accurate and easy to use.