ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration will conduct weekly audits to make sure voter registration changes made through the agency are sent correctly to the state elections board, after a computer programming error forced thousands of voters to use provisional ballots in last month’s primary
MVA Administrator Christine Nizer apologized for the error before a joint panel of Maryland lawmakers during a hearing Thursday. She underscored that the “inadvertent programming error” has been fixed, and she outlined steps the agency is taking to prevent it from happening again.
“I want to tell you I’m truly committed to reviewing all the processes related to voter registration and ensuring the process is working as effectively as possible,” Nizer said.
Nizer also said the agency is working to update its information technology.
“Some of our current IT systems date back to the 1970s,” she said. “They’re antiquated and difficult to maintain.”
While the MVA and the board estimated as many as 83,493 voters were affected, they later determined 71,981 were potentially impacted. Out of 20,563 provisional ballots cast in last month’s primary, the MVA says 3,538 were cast by people affected by the computer error. In addition, about 5,163 of the affected voters were able to cast ballots regularly.
Still, lawmakers questioned whether voters may have been dissuaded from voting due to the error.
Del. Eric Luedtke, a Montgomery County Democrat, asked State Elections Administrator Linda Lamone if she was concerned the error may have deterred voters from casting ballots.
“Yes,” Lamone said.
But Sen. Gail Bates, a Howard County Republican, asked Lamone whether she knew of anyone being turned away because of the error.
“I haven’t heard that, no,” Lamone said.
Del. Anne Kaiser, a Montgomery County Democrat who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said the problem underscores challenges with election judges. That’s due to reports that some made it easier for people to get provisional ballots than others. She asked if Lamone planned to highlight better education for election judges on the point.
Lamone said she agreed it should receive added emphasis in training before November’s elections.
“We’ll make sure that the curriculum stresses it even more,” Lamone said.
Officials have said the error was discovered just several days before the June 26 primary, after a state board of elections employee who had changed her address realized she never received a voter notification card.
The problem related to changes voters made in address on the MVA’s website or self-service kiosks.
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