Push to Bring Back Paper Ballots

Ballot boxes in the 2014 Takoma Park special election.

PHOTO: Paper ballots are used in Takoma Park city elections. These ballots were cast in the 2014 Ward 3 special election. Photo by Bill Brown.

THE MOCO STUDENT

On September 22, 2015, Montgomery County released a press announcement introducing a joint program between Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III.

The program would allow the Board of Elections of both the Montgomery and Prince George’s counties to cooperate in creating an outreach program announcing new paper ballot technology.

The technology, first introduced to both Montgomery and Prince George’s County at Riderwood Retirement Community, scans the paper ballot before it is placed into a ballot box. The scan is performed electronically and a record of these scans is kept in accordance with the elections.

A written ballot like this, where a voter may bubble in the circle that corresponds to their candidate, has not been present in either of the counties for decades. Before the electronic touch screen system implemented in the presidential election of the 2000s, Prince George’s Count had a system of pulling levers.

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However, because of a law passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2007, our state requires paper ballots. We have only begun to address this requirement recently because funds had not been provided until last year. Many voters had also worried that the touch screen equipment did not make a paper record of the votes, so this new technology was partially attended to appease these worries.

The funds provided for this technology came equally from the state and county governments, while the State of Maryland Election Systems and Software created the technology itself.

The new system will be tested in the upcoming presidential elections while the early voting process will be kept the same.

“At the core of democracy is the vote and it is imperative that we continue at the federal, state, and local levels to make voting more accessible and easier in order to increase participation and engagement of our citizens. I am proud to join Montgomery County Executive Leggett and the Prince George’s and Montgomery counties’ Boards of Elections to launch this voter outreach campaign and introduce the residents of the two most populous Maryland counties to our state’s new voting system,” said Baker, in the press release.

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However, Baker’s positive view of the new written ballots contrasts some of the citizens who believe the electronic ballots to be much more of a convenience.

“I believe these paper ballots are not as beneficial as the electronic screens. The process would take more resources. I believe that this implementation will discourage voters because the current age is an age of technology and moving back to paper ballots may seem archaic to young voters such as myself. Paper records are also harder to maintain and organize compared to electronic records,” explained Timothy Zhou, an election judge for the upcoming presidential election.

Despite the controversy over the written paper ballots, whether the written ballots will become an advantage in the upcoming elections will be decided after their implementation in the upcoming elections.

Article by MoCo Student Politics editor Isabelle Zhou of Richard Montgomery High School

Illustration © William L. Brown,

About the Author

The MoCo Student
The MoCo Student, founded in 2012, is Montgomery County's first student-run, county-wide online newspaper dedicated to providing youth-relevant stories and channeling the student voice. This year, the MoCo Student has over 60 writers, artists, filmmakers, and editors from middle and high schools across the county.