State Board of Elections Action Creates Uncertainty for Online Ballot System

State Board of Election officials failed to certify an online ballot marking tool that was to be put in place for the June 24 primary citing security concerns.   The marking tool would accompany an online ballot and enable a voter to mark the ballot before printing it out and mailing it in.

As reported by the Baltimore Sun:

The five-member panel declined to certify a system for marking the ballots on a computer screen despite assurances from its staff that the system was secure and ready to be used in this year’s June primary and November general elections.

No formal tally was taken, but it was clear the approval was two votes short of the four-vote supermajority required. Both Republican members opposed the certification, and they were joined by one of the three Democrats.

This action has also raised questions about the ability of voters to download absentee ballots generally.

Left up in the air is exactly what the decision means. The board’s staff, backed by an opinion from an assistant attorney general, interpreted it as letting the board proceed with its plan to deliver blank absentee ballots electronically to any voter who makes an online request. The voter would have to print the ballot and mark it manually before sending it in, the staff said.

However, Michael Greenberger, a University of Maryland law professor and founder of its Center for Health and Homeland Security contends,
…that the two functions — online delivery of the ballot and marking it — are legally inseparable and that the board has in effect blocked all use of ballots delivered online.

It’s also unclear how this action would affect military and overseas voters who are guaranteed online access to absentee ballots under federal law.
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