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Paper Ballots in Md. Primary No Good

About 100 Maryland voters who requested paper ballots for the March primary because they did not trust the state's new touch-screen voting machines (search) may never have their votes counted.

The provisional ballots they filled out during the primary election have been rejected by local elections boards, which concluded the ballots could not be used as an alternative to the machines.

Twenty-one of the disputed ballots came from Howard County, and angry residents there are demanding that the votes be tallied.

"I was not told that my vote would not be counted. That is just plain wrong," one of the voters, Helen K. Kolbe, said at an administrative hearing Wednesday in Annapolis. "By any logic, my vote should be accepted, or quite simply, it is fraud and a stain on our electoral procedures."

The Campaign for Verifiable Voting (search) had urged thousands of its supporters to request paper ballots to create a verifiable paper trail of their votes.

But under state law, paper ballots can be used only if "the individual's name does not appear on the precinct register." State officials told The (Baltimore) Sun that county election judges erred in offering the paper alternative.

The requests for paper ballots were denied in many cases, but in some instances they were honored by election judges with incorrect information.

As a result, the votes are sitting uncounted.

"That is not what we were planning to do," said Linda Schade, a co-director with the campaign. "We are not happy about it."

The small number of ballots would not have affected the outcome of any of Maryland's major races. At Wednesday's administrative hearing, officials said Kolbe and 20 other Howard residents were victims of a communications breakdown that prevented last-minute instructions from the state from reaching hundreds of election judges.

Maryland is among the first states to implement a statewide electronic system in the aftermath of the last presidential election, choosing the AccuVote-TS (search) manufactured by Diebold Election Systems of Ohio.

But questions about the Diebold (search) systems have continued since a team of Johns Hopkins University researchers revealed security problems a year ago. California's secretary of state decertified a version of the Diebold machines for use there.