Maryland state election officials pulled 35 voting machines offline during the 2014 elections, mostly because of complaints about possible vote-flipping by the electronic machines, according to a review by the News-4 I-Team.
The state’s board of elections received dozens of complaints from voters about machines that had changed their votes from the candidate of one political party to that of another -- Democrat to Republican or Republican to Democrat. Those complaints included some from voters in Germantown, Columbia and Adelphia.
The News-4 I-Team’s review of state election databases and internal agency emails shows a 50 percent increase in vote-flipping complaints in 2014 from the 2012 state elections.
One voter who also called News4 to report a vote-flipping problem on a machine on Election Day said the machine changed her vote twice from a Republican candidate to a Democratic candidate. In another incident detailed in state investigative reports, a Baltimore County voter reported his choice of a Democratic Congressional candidate was mistakenly flipped by the machine to register as a vote for the Republican candidate.
Internal agency emails reveal the state board of elections received a series of warnings from voters about possible machine calibration problems in the days before Election Day. Those voters reported similar issues during the early voting period, including multiple complaints at a polling place in Germantown.
One of those emails warns state elections officials, “You need to figure out how to fix this crap.”
According to a state elections official, at least 11 voting machines showed calibration issues after further review by state investigators. Four other machines had problems with inoperative touch screens, the official told the I-Team.
On Election Day, in response to News4 inquiries about vote-flipping complaints, local elections officials attributed flipping to “problematic finger” maneuvers by voters, including “thumb dragging.” The state distributed a flyer to election monitors to post on Election Day, urging monitors to advise voters to use the “tip of your finger.”
State elections officials said Maryland will shift to a paper ballot system for the 2016 elections, and will no longer use the electronic voting devices employed for the 2014 elections. The shift to paper ballots was ordered years earlier and is unrelated to any machine calibration problems of the 2014 elections.
A state board of elections spokeswoman says none of the voters who complained about possible vote-flipping machines is believed to have registered an incorrect vote. In each case, she said, the voter was shown how to correct his or her ballot before officially submitting it.