- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2002

Election officials in Montgomery and Prince George's counties said yesterday that they are reviewing the delays caused by their new voting machines in Tuesday's primaries, but promised results would be quicker in the Nov. 5 general election.

Margaret Jurgensen, elections director for the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said the county advised voters and candidates as early as Aug. 15 that there would be delays in the results. They had anticipated results to be available by 8:50 p.m. 50 minutes after the polls closed but many results were not available until after 11 p.m.

The final totals for Montgomery County were not posted until early yesterday morning, and final results from Prince George's County were not expected until today.

"We are going through a debriefing today and seeing how we can best expedite the process for November," Ms. Jurgensen said yesterday.

Montgomery and Prince George's counties spent millions on the new computerized machines that allowed voters to select their candidate simply by touching a screen.

The totals then were collected on a disk and transmitted over phone lines to a central location for tallying. The machines were developed to ensure that problems like those arising in Florida during the 2000 general election did not occur in Maryland.

There also were reports that some Montgomery County votes had been lost or misplaced, something Ms. Jurgensen said she could not rule out.

"As we do our canvassing, we will be able to ascertain what happened," she said. Canvassing involves making sure that the number of voters who signed in matches the number of votes cast. Ms. Jurgensen said she expected to have this process done by Sept. 23.

The final statewide totals for Tuesday's primary were delayed because of technical problems in Prince George's County. Nine precinct totals were still outstanding as of 5 p.m. yesterday.

"There was something wrong with the phone lines that would not allow them to transmit," said Alisha Alexander, assistant to elections coordinator for Prince George's County.

Transmission problems delayed the outcome of the tight Democratic primary in the 8th Congressional District. In a five-way race, state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen won the nomination with 43 percent of the votes to 41 percent for Delegate Mark K. Shriver. The margin was 2,409 votes out of 82,454 votes cast.

Democrats see Maryland's 8th District as a chance to win one of six seats needed to wrest the House of Representatives from Republican control. Mr. Van Hollen will face Rep. Constance A. Morella, an eight-term centrist Republican who had no primary opposition, in November.

"I am confident that if we unite the strengths of all those candidates as we go forward in November, we can win this race and take back the seat for the Democrats," Mr. Van Hollen said yesterday morning.

This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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