- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2000

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, saying he wants to prevent Maryland from ever having an election fiasco like the one in Florida, yesterday appointed a committee to improve the state's voting procedures.

"In light of recent national events, now is the time to review the way we conduct elections in the state of Maryland," Mr. Glendening, a Democrat, said. He held a news conference and released a statement announcing the committee and charging it with suggesting a uniform voting machine for the state and examining recount procedures.

In the District, officials are already on schedule to have new voting machines. In Virginia, some lawmakers are considering changes to recount methods.

Six different types of voting machines are in use in Maryland, including punch-card lever systems.

Mr. Glendening has asked the 15-member committee to submit its report by Feb. 9 about one month into the legislative session.

Under Maryland law, local elections boards decide what type of voting machine to use from among a list of machines approved by the state board. One option would be for the committee to recommend a single type of machine.

And if the state puts up some money for the change Mr. Glendening is promising some state money, though he said he doesn't have a dollar figure that might urge local elections boards to install new equipment.

All but two jurisdictions Baltimore and Caroline County lease their machines and could switch fairly easily. Mr. Glendening said he would consider grandfathering in those systems.

In the District, board of elections spokesman Bill O'Field said there is already $1 million in this year's budget to update all the machines used by the city.

The new machines will be optical-scan machines. D.C. voters currently use punch cards, but have a mechanical puncher so they don't have the problem of so-called "pregnant" chad that has plagued Florida counters, Mr. O'Field said.

Virginia voters vote on a wide range of machines. Some Northern Virginia voters use optical-scan machines, while others use computer touch-screens. But about one in five Virginians still vote on punch-card systems.

Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a Republican, hasn't weighed in on changes to his state's elections procedures.

Virginia's last close statewide election was in 1989, when Democrat L. Douglas Wilder defeated Republican Marshall Coleman for governor by 6,741 votes. Mr. Coleman contested the results, claiming thousands of punch-card votes for him weren't counted. Virginia law didn't allow for hand recounts until this year.

Maryland's closest recent election was in 1994, when Mr. Glendening defeated Ellen Sauerbrey by 5,993 votes out of 1.4 million cast. Mrs. Sauerbrey and her supporters charged that there was vote fraud in Baltimore, where about 5,000 more votes were cast than names checked off the rolls, and that there were problems with voting-machine security in Baltimore and elsewhere.

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