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Takoma Park Absentee Ballot Format Nearly Finalized

The city election is Nov. 8.

The absentee ballot format for Takoma Park’s 2011 election is nearly ready, and only needs a few minor changes, according to the Board of Elections (BOE) which reviewed the latest version at its meeting Wednesday evening.

The election is scheduled for Nov. 8, and Richard Carback, of “Scantegrity”—which is a security system for optical scan voting systems that uses confirmation codes to allow a voter to ensure their ballot has not been changed and is included in the final tally—presented the latest absentee ballot design to the BOE.

The ballot package will be in a large yellow envelope that will say “Official Absentee Ballot – City of Takoma Park, Maryland.” Inside will be three more envelopes, one is for the voter to place the ballot into (this envelope remains sealed until election day); an envelope to mail the ballot to the City Clerk; and a third which contains the “Internet Confirmation Kit” voters can use to confirm that their ballot was counted, Carback said.

The Internet Confirmation Kit contains the “Internet Confirmation Option,” which is a card that tells voters they “can make extra sure that your votes are in fact posted correctly.” It directs voters to go to the election website, takomapark.org/remotevote and “follow the instructions there for entering your codes, but to make sure the displays a “unique number” that will be listed on the card. The card also contains “one-use-passwords” that allows the user to “post confirmation numbers” from the ballot onto the website. “Even if your ballot were to be lost in the mail, by posting these numbers you ensure that you vote is recorded correctly,” the card says.

The confirmation option is available to voters who “don’t have to confirm,” but they can, said City Clerk Jessie Carpenter.

However, while the BOE approves of the ballot format, the actual ballot cannot be finalized until after the nominating caucus—which is scheduled for Oct. 4—produces candidates, Carpenter said. 

While it might seem to be a lot of information and forms for voters to deal with, if all an absentee voter wants to do is fill out the ballot and return it via the U.S. Postal Service, they can stuff everything into the envelope and send it back.

“If they return everything, we’ll weed out the ballots” to ensure they are counted, said BOE Member Jim Roberts.

The BOE was generally pleased with the proposed ballot format as presented, the panel wants some minor changes to the ballots, including changes in language and colors, and it would like to run some use tests of the ballot.

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