Polls across the state opened late due to missing equipment or missing poll workers
The state hired voting machine technical 'rovers' from Monster.Com ad...Some had only one train of training...on Monday!
By John Gideon on 9/12/2006, 9:06am PT  

Blogged by John Gideon

This morning voters in much of Maryland awoke with plans to go to the polls early and then head off to a normal day. Unfortunately when they got to their polling places they only found locked doors.

As reported by the Baltimore Sun many poll workers did not show up for work this morning and when they did they many had no idea how to operate new voting technology called "e-poll books" which are a necessary part of the voting process in Maryland and many other Diebold states. The workers were not trained to use that technology because Diebold did not provide the technology to the state until it was too late to properly train the pollworkers.

According to the Sun...

Tardy election judges in Baltimore caused delays at dozens of polling places this morning, prompting some candidates to call for extended hours at affected polls in the city and Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties.
...
Armstead B.C. Jones Sr., president of the Baltimore Board of Elections, said that in addition to late arrivals, poll workers are unfamiliar with several pieces of new voting equipment debuting today, which is causing additional delays.

"Poll workers go through a class that's three hours long, but some of the technology wasn't available to us in time for everyone to be trained on it," Jones said, referring to the new electronic check-in system, called e-poll books. "This is not unusual for an election morning when you're dealing with brand new equipment."

Not unusual? What an unbelievable statement to make when talking about elections. It's his job as the president of the Board of Elections to ensure that every poll worker is trained and that no equipment is new to them. What should be unusual is that Mr. Jones keep his job.

And this is not the whole story. Added to a lack of trained poll workers to open the polls and operate the equipment we also learn that when the supplies were sent out to the polls in Montgomery County someone forgot to include the smart cards. These are the cards that have the ballot definition and the machines will not work without them.

The Sun says:

In Montgomery County, electronic voting at most polling locations did not start until after 8 a.m. because local election organizers forgot to include a critical start-up card for the machines in precinct supply kits, said Margaret A. Jurgensen, the county's election director.

The Washington Post is reporting that voters in Montgomery County are being given provisional ballots by poll workers until the smart cards are received. Unfortunately many polling sites ran out of provisional ballots which kept voters from voting until workers could scramble to get copies made. Even more unfortunate is the fact that these provisional ballots require inspection before they can be counted. The county should have required 'emergency ballots' to be used. These ballots would just be handled as if they were received in the mail as absentee ballots.

As this is being written candidates and political parties are beginning to ask that the polls be kept open longer this evening to make up for the late start this morning. We are also getting reports that local radio and TV station switchboards are being filled with complaints from voters who have had problems this morning. The Baltimore Sun has three people taking handling a constant flood of calls from voters with complaints.

Added to all of this is information that Diebold and the state are using technicians ("rovers") who were just hired from a technical services company, PDS Technical Services, that advertised for help on Monster.com and the only technical qualification for these people who were to provide technical oversight is that they have "some high school course work".

This post will be updated throughout the day as more information comes out.

UPDATE More information from the "Train Wreck":
Poll workers arrived at work this morning to face new "E Poll Books" which they had never seen before and on which they had gotten only a minimum of training. This technology ties in with the state's new voter registration data base. Due to these two issues some voters are arriving for the first time at the polls only to be told that they had 'already voted'.

Also being reported are "Candidate selections missing from review screens, machine crashes requiring multiple re-boots, lots of precincts running out of the paper ballot back-ups, and battery problems.

UPDATED LATE THIS AFTERNOON Fox News reports that a judge has found that polls can stay open for an extra hour this evening. This will now keep the polls open until 9PM tonight. However, the county says that only paper ballots can be used during that time.

This leads to a concern about the handling of the paper ballots that many, many voters have been forced to use. Historically provisional ballots have not always been counted and handling of those ballots takes a bit more work in that each voter who cast a provisional ballot must be checked to ensure they are truly eligible to vote. Now officials are concerned that these thousands of ballots cast today due to failures in the election administration process and with technology will be handled differently than normal ballots and may not be counted at all.

According to Fox:

Mike Morrill, a spokesman for attorney general candidate Douglas Gansler, said the results could be skewed if provisional votes aren't counted until later, given the possibility that a large number of people were forced by the glitches to use the ballots.

"To treat them as if they were provisional, as if they may or may not count, continues the disenfranchisement of Montgomery County voters," he said.

Morrill said Gansler's legal advisers were reviewing the decision.

It will be a surprise if there are not more than one lawsuits after this debacle is done.

Also an issue is that when polling places ran out of ballots they made copies of the ballots. However, because the ballot was bigger than a normal sheet of copy paper the printed ballots were pages long. Are these new ballots legal and will they be counted? Only time will tell.