Technical problems reported at 10 Bethesda precincts -- Gazette.Net


This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. June 24, 2014.

At least 10 precincts in Bethesda had to resort to provisional ballots during Maryland’s gubernatorial primary Tuesday due to problems with devices used to check in voters.

Nancy Dacek, a member of Montgomery County’s Board of Elections, said electronic poll books were down in the morning. As many as 12 precincts in Bethesda could have been effected, according to Dacek, who did not provide an exact number.

Replacements poll books were delivered to the precincts. They were back up as of 10:30 a.m.

There are more than 200 precincts in Montgomery County, according to Dacek.

The effect on voters was unclear.

Dacek said that, unofficially, 40 provisional ballots had been cast at one of the affected precincts.

The provisional ballots cast as a result of the glitch would not be tabulated Tuesday night. Provisional ballots are treated like absentee ballots and are tabulated at a later date, Dacek said.

In an emailed statement, the county’s board of elections urged discouraged voters to return to their polling places later in the day.

“The Board recognizes that some people may not have been able to wait this morning to cast a [provisional ballot] and apologizes for the inconvenience this may have caused,” the statement said.

At least three people vowed to come back later to vote at Pauline Betz Addie Tennis Center in Bethesda, where the poll books were down for 40 minutes, according to Roberta Williams, a chief judge at the precinct. She estimated that five people cast provisional ballots in that time.

Alice Heiserman, a volunteer and Democratic chairwoman of that Bethesda precinct, said the glitch was upsetting.

“This is really bad,” Heiserman said. “I’m very upset about it because people make an effort to come out to vote.”

Dacek said Montgomery County had been using the touch-screen poll books for five years. As of Tuesday afternoon, no other issues had been reported.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning and will close at 8 p.m. This is the earliest Maryland primary, which previously has been held in September, causing some candidates to fear low turnout at the polls.

There haven’t been any reports of overcrowded polling places, Montgomery County Board of Elections spokeswoman Marjorie Roher said. Any rush to the polls would have most likely happened this morning. Roher said they do predict a higher volume of voters between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. as people return home from work.

The unofficial turnout for the primary in September 2012 was roughly 14 percent, according to the Maryland Board of Elections. In September of 2010, voter turnout reached 18 percent.

In early voting, 18,871 voters already casted ballots during early voting, which ended Thursday. Roher said 7,755 absentee ballots have been requested and as of Monday, 4,147 ballots have been returned. Voters were required to turn in absentee ballots by June 19.

Montgomery County Councilman Craig L. Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown said voters are simply not aware that the primary would be held early.

“It’s not on their radar screen and, unfortunately, I think because of it we are going to see very drastic low turnout,” he said.

Republican Gubernatorial hopeful Larry Hogan said people still think the primary is in September. As a candidate, Hogan said the lack of awareness of the primary is frustrating.

With a majority of Maryland and Montgomery County voters registered as Democrats, the next governor, as well as the next Montgomery County executive, could be decided today.

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) is seeking a third term as executive and faces challenge from former county executive Douglas M. Duncan and Councilman Philip M. Andrews (Dist. 3). The winner advances to the general election in November, where he will face Republican Jim Shalleck, who was unopposed in the primary.

In the race to be the next governor, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown is competing with Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur (Dist. 20) to represent the Democratic party in November.

Hogan, Harford County Executive David R. Craig, Del. Ronald A. George or businessman Charles Lollar are vying to represent Republicans.

In addition to the races for governor and county executive, voters will also select the members of their party who will appear on the November ballot for the General Assembly, County Council, Congress and central committees.

For information on the candidates, see The Gazette’s voters guide.

Teddy Amenabar and Kate Alexander contributed to this report.