Last day for early voting

Election judges Amanda Ford, Philip Carey Foster and Alice Ford check voters in at the Easton fire hall Wednesday, Oct. 29. Thursday was the last day of early voting. Election Day is Nov. 4.

EASTON — Some Talbot County voters said “vote switching” continued to be an issue, even on the final day of early voting on Thursday, Oct. 30.

Rita Hill, an Easton resident who works as a computer training specialist, said she voted Thursday, Oct. 30, at the Easton fire hall and the machine she used switched her vote for Congress from Rep. Andy Harris, the Republican incumbent in the First District, to Democrat challenger Bill Tilghman.

“I was getting ready to go to the next page and I wanted to check everything before I hit the ‘next’ button, and as I was standing there I watched the ‘X’ disappear from Harris and appear in the Tilghman box,” Hill said. “It was like magic.”

Hill said she immediately told an election judge at the polling center that her vote switched, and they had her go back and change the vote, and told her to make sure her ballot was right before the final cast.

Hill deals with computers for a living and said she was sure she wasn’t doing anything wrong.

“I know that my hands were nowhere on that screen when I watched that change places,” she said.

Easton resident Adelina Cornette said she also voted early at the Easton Fire Hall, but on Tuesday, and said she had some issues on one voting machine.

Cornette said she tried several times to vote for Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan by pressing on his name on the screen and the vote kept marking Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s name.

The State Board of Elections had said in a release earlier this week that the problems could be caused by voter error.

“Voters with large fingers or long nails or voters who hold the touchscreen with their palms resting on the screen seem to report this issue more frequently,” state officials said in a release on Monday.

“I’m 5 foot 6, I weigh 130 pounds, I don’t have long fingernails and I don’t have stubby fingers, and I wasn’t resting my palms on one of the machines,” Cornette said.

Cornette said she tried to clear her vote three times to no avail. Eventually she had to call an election judge to the voting machine she was using, and the judge had trouble clearing the vote, too.

The ballot was eventually cast the way Cornette wanted to vote.

But she still wonders, saying, “How do I know what I cast is really what I cast? I don’t see the finished product other than what was on that screen before I leave.”

Talbot County Election Director Patti Mitchell said her office is taking the problem very seriously.

Mitchell said the only voting machine taken out of service was not because of vote flipping, but rather because the card reader that identifies voters had gone bad. She also said on Wednesday, Oct. 29, that no allegations of vote switching were reported to her, but said on Thursday that she started receiving complaints, days after the voters’ ballots were cast.

She said every one of the machines used in Talbot County is tested vigorously and put through a series of tests to make sure they’re properly calibrated. When her office tested the machines before early voting started, none of them switched votes, she said.

Counties across the state test all machines before they’re used to make sure they’re calibrated correctly and working properly “to ensure that they record and count votes accurately,” according to the State Board of Elections.

Mitchell said voters should read over their ballots very carefully, and make sure the ballots read how they want them to be cast before actually casting them.

There is a special statewide toll-free phone line dedicated to fielding election-related complaints, and the number is 1-800-222-8683.

Thursday was the last day of early voting. Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Follow me on Twitter @jboll_stardem.

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