By The Associated Press
A major voter-registration snafu was sowing confusion in an important primary June 26 as officials prepared for as many as 80,000 voters to cast provisional ballots that won’t be counted until next week.
State officials were still assessing the fallout from a computer error at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.
Former NAACP President Ben Jealous and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker lead a crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary field to win a nomination to face popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the fall. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
The problem relates to changes voters made in address and party affiliation on the administration’s website or self-service kiosks, information that failed to be sent to the state elections board.
“As far as we know it was a failure of MVA to transfer data to us. That is what they are telling us,” said Nikki Charlson, the state elections deputy administrator. “They told us it was a computer-programming error that failed to transfer that subset of data.”
She added that elections officials had not heard of any problems relating to the programing error during the first several hours of voting on Tuesday.
“We haven’t heard of any great push for provisionals today,” Charlson said.
The error comes in a big election year for Maryland. Voters were choosing candidates for all 188 state legislative seats in Tuesday’s primary, as well as the Democratic nominee for governor in a crowded primary. Polls have shown it to be a close contest between former NAACP President Ben Jealous and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is unchallenged in the GOP primary.
“Our administration is obviously incredibly disappointed that this happened,” said Amelia Chasse, Hogan’s spokeswoman. “What matters most is that every eligible voter will be able to vote, and every vote will be counted. The governor has directed the auditor for the Maryland Department of Transportation to conduct a comprehensive review of the situation and ordered MVA leadership to make themselves available for any legislative hearings.”
The problem was discovered Friday when a state board of elections employee who changed her address realized she never received a voter notification card, said state elections administrator Linda Lamone.
“And that’s why I picked up the phone and called the Motor Vehicle Administration and said, ‘What’s going on here? Why didn’t she get this notification card, and then we checked our database and it hadn’t been changed,” Lamone said Tuesday.
Asked how things were going Tuesday, Lamone said, “so far so good.”
State officials first said Saturday night that about 18,760 people were affected. On Sunday, state Sen. Joan Carter Conway said the Senate committee she chairs would hold a hearing. After Monday’s announcement, Conway and Del. Anne Kaiser, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, called for MVA Administrator Christine Nizer’s resignation.
Affected voters are encouraged to verify their registration information using the state elections board’s voter look-up website. If the website doesn’t show the voter’s current address, a voter can use the board’s polling place locator to find the right voting location for the voter’s new address. Then, the voter can use the provisional voting process to cast a ballot on Tuesday.
Provisional ballots won’t be counted until July 5.
Lamone, the state elections administrator, said the timing was set long ago in regulations.
“You need the time. You have to research every one of the provisionals,” she said.