Skip to Main Content

Request for Feedback - Use of Ballot Marking Devices for the 2018 Elections

With Maryland's paper-based voting system, there are two ways to mark a ballot.  One way is for a voter to hand-mark the ballot, and the other is for a voter to use a ballot marking device to make selections.  Regardless of how a voter marks a ballot, all ballots are tabulated by a scanning unit.   

Ballot Marking Device Information
The ballot marking device was designed to provide voters with disabilities an independent and private way to make selections.  Although it was designed for voters with disabilities, it has benefits for all voters and administering a paper-based voting system during early voting.   The device, when used with a printer at the check-in process, ensures that each voter receives the correct ballot and alerts voters to possible errors before the voter feeds the ballot into the scanner.  More information is about this device (also called the ExpressVote) is available here.

2016 Elections - Use of the Ballot Marking Device 
Before the 2016 elections, the State Board of Elections planned for all individuals voting during early voting to make selections using the ballot marking device. This plan changed when the State Board of Elections became concerned about how voters navigate in and between contests with more than 7 candidates.  If there are more than 7 candidates in a contest, the names of the candidates are divided between multiple screens.  Voters must view all screens in a contest before moving to the next contest, but there were concerns about how voters move within a contest and between contests.  Some voters became "lost" and were unable to navigate without help.  

After balancing the rights of candidates and voters, the members of the State Board of Elections adopted a policy limiting the use of the ballot marking device for the 2016 elections.*  Under the State Board's policy, election officials provided one ballot marking device to each voting location. During the check-in process, election judges informed voters about the availability and accessibility of the ballot marking device and facilitated voting on the ballot marking device if the voter asked to use it.  As a result of the policy, the vast majority of voters in the 2016 elections hand-marked ballots.    

2018 Elections - Use of the Ballot Marking Device Discussion
Since the navigation concerns continue, the members of the State Board of Elections would like to hear from voters, candidates, and other interested individuals on how the ballot marking devices should be used in the 2018 elections.  Proposed options are:
  1. Provide only one ballot marking device to each voting location (early voting and election day)
  2. Provide one ballot marking device to each voting location (early voting and election day) but give local election officials the ability to deploy more ballot marking devices where they anticipate greater need
  3. Expand the use of the ballot marking devices during early voting and on election day
The listed options do not include every option but are merely examples of possible options.  Local election officials shared their views at the August 24, 2017, meeting, and their feedback in included in the minutes and the meeting materials (pages 21-25).

You may provide comments in writing or in person.  
  1. If you wish to provide written comments, please email them to with "2018 Elections - Use of Ballot Marking Devices" as the subject line.  You may also send them to the State Board of Elections, P.O. Box 6486, Annapolis MD 21401-0486.   All comments must be received by October 15, 2017.  
  2. If you wish to share your comments in person, please plan to attend the September 29th meeting of the State Board of Elections.  The meeting starts at 2 pm and will be held at the State Board's offices located at 151 West Street, Suite 200 in Annapolis.  To help us plan for this meeting, please send an email to and include "2018 Elections - Use of Ballot Marking Devices" as the subject line and your desire to speak at the September 29th meeting.  If you are unable to attend the September meeting, there will be an opportunity to provide comment at the October meeting (to be scheduled).  
If you are not familiar with the ballot marking device or the navigation issue, you may visit the State Board of Elections' offices or the offices of your local boards of elections  and request a demonstration.  Since there should be at least one contest on the device that has more than 7 candidates, you can experience how to move within and between contests with multiple screens of candidates. 

If you have any questions about this device and its usage, please contact Nikki Charlson by email at or by phone at 410.269.2843.

*  This issue was thoroughly discussed at several meetings of the State Board of Elections.   If you would like to learn more about the State Board's decision, you may wish to read the minutes from the relevant meetings - January 21, 2016 (pages 14 and 15), February 4, 2016February 25, 2016 (pages 10-11), and March 4, 2016.