Several Maryland organizations alleged that Montgomery County’s touch-screen ballots disadvantage candidates in certain primary election races in a letter sent to the county and state boards of election Monday.
The full list of candidates running in certain races in the county primaries is displayed across multiple digital pages, the letter says, with inadequate notice that voters must press a small button labeled “more” to view additional candidates on the next page.
The letter highlighted the Democratic primary in the Montgomery County Council at-large race, in which it says seven of the eight candidates running for office are displayed on the first page and only one, Laurie-Anne Sayles, is on the second page. Early voting began Thursday.
“Even a small number of voters becoming confused by the ballot construction could affect the outcome of the election, to the specific detriment of the candidate who is by herself on the second screen of the At-large Council listing,” said the letter, which was signed by groups including the Montgomery County Education Association, Progressive Maryland and Jews United for Justice Campaign Fund, which endorsed Sayles.
Sayles campaign manager Jeffrey Groce said, “They did not notify the candidates that this is the way the electronic ballots would look. How we found out about it is, people who were voting for Laurie-anne Sayles said, ‘We were having trouble finding the candidate’s name.’”
Sayles and members of the organizations testified to the Montgomery County Board of Elections about the issue Monday afternoon. According to Bruce Turnbull, a board member of Jews United for Justice, the elections board pledged to inform voters of the issue and in signage when voters decide whether to vote by paper ballot or digitally.
Alysoun Mclaughlin, acting director for the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said she was working with an attorney and the state elections board on the phrasing of signage in voting centers to inform voters of the issue.
Groce and Mclaughlin said the issue was known to the state elections board as early as 2015, but no action was taken. The state elections board did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
BY CHRISTINE ZHU | JULY 12, 2022 | 7:00 AM
County election officials face calls to fix electronic ballot design that could impact outcome in some County Council races At-large candidate Laurie-Anne Sayles and District 5 candidate Jeremiah Pope protest their names are alone on second ballot pages
Electronic Ballot Format Criticized As we all learned in the 2000 election, ballot design can influence outcomes in close contests. It disadvantages Sayles to be on the second page. I don’t know what the Montgomery County Board of Elections can do to address this problem at this point.