Elections, Voting, Voters, Ballots, Political Campaigns
Article I, § 1 of the Maryland Constitution states that all elections “shall be by ballot.” What exactly constitutes “by ballot” has evolved over several generations to include everything from the viva voce casting of ballots in crowded rooms and seamy city streets to the electronic touch screens and computerized smart cards of the Direct Record Electronic voting machine first implemented in Baltimore City in 1996. What has remained constant through the ages, however, has been the ever present commitment on behalf of State and city officials to utilize the technology and resources available to them to deliver to the citizens of Maryland the most reliable, accessible, and accurate method of voting obtainable at the time. With the systematic failure of many state voting systems five years ago, many jurisdictions, facilitated by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, launched massive efforts to overhaul their antiquated punch card, paper ballot, and voting machine systems of voting in favor of embracing the various technological innovations of the digital age. This evolution to eradicate the problem of the much maligned “hanging chad” was not embraced by all. The arguments presented by many of those fearful of abandoning their time tested methods of voting, despite the admitted flaws of such systems, closely mirror the arguments advanced by those who wished to decelerate Baltimore City’s efforts in 1937 to equip the city with a radically new piece of voting technology, the lever operated voting machine. This paper traces the events leading up to and surrounding Baltimore City’s adoption of automated voting technology in 1937 and the various legal challenges it faced in the process. Through a thorough treatment of this tumultuous technological evolution of the past, this paper will attempt to shine a new light on the current debates surrounding the adoption of electronic voting technologies, which are touched upon lightly at the paper’s conclusion. At the end of the argument, two conclusions shall become readily apparent: (1) societies have and should continue to utilize the technological advancements available to them to secure the freest, most secure, and most efficient election processes possible; and (2) law suits by those opposed to the rapid utilization of voting technology, even when unsuccessful, can be an effective tool towards ensuring the safety of the vote.
Digital Commons Citation
Robinson, Andrew H. , "The Voting Rights Cases of 1937? The Adoption of Voting Machine Technology in Baltimore City" (2005). Legal History Publications. 6.