ELKTON — Cecil County voters will have a blast from the past in 2016.

That’s when voters will return to paper ballots in a statewide move to create a verifiable paper trail for better reliability of election results.

The new system will replace touchscreen voting machines that have been used in Maryland for the last 10 years.

Legislators voted to spend $65 million in 2002 to buy a touchscreen system manufactured by Diebold after paper ballots in the presidential election of 2000 resulted in recounts in Florida that delayed results for weeks.

But it didn’t take long for the electronic voting machines to come under fire from both political parties. Opposition called the machines unreliable and claimed there was no way to verify the voter’s intent without a paper record.

The Maryland Board of Public Works approved $28 million in December 2014 to lease a new system that will be used statewide for the first time in 2016.

Cecil County Election Director Debbie Towery is offering free training on the new voting system from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 8 in the County Administration Building. Training will also be held on Jan. 12 and Feb. 2, Towery said.

Anyone who is not yet registered to vote in Cecil County will be able to register during each of the training sessions.

Detailed directions are already posted on the Maryland Board of Election’s website and will be posted on Cecil County’s website at www.ccgov.org soon.

The new system will give voters a paper ballot to mark with a black ballpoint pen during the Primary Election Day on April 26. After reviewing the ballot, voters will insert it into a scanner which will tabulate it.

However, during early voting, which is from April 14 to 21, voting options are slightly different. More than 110 different ballot styles throughout the state make it more costly to have all ballot styles printed in advance.

Early voters will use an ExpressVote ballot marking device similar to the touchscreen machines that have been used for the last decade. The device will print each voter’s selections on a paper ballot card which the voter can review before inserting it into a secure tabulation device.

“Staff from our office will also go out to groups, upon request, to do demonstrations on the new voting machines,” Towery said, adding they will do more demos between the April Primary and the November General Election.

Cecil County is looking for qualified people to become election judges for the 2016 contests.

“We use a total of 260 election judges and we still need about 35 more judges,” she said.

Judges must be registered voters in Maryland and be physically and mentally able to work at least a 15-hour day. Judges are paid $150 a day, Towery said. Call the election office at 410-996-5310, or visit the county website for an application.

Training for election judges takes place between the end of January and the end of March.

Filing deadline for candidates in the 2016 primary is 9 p.m. on Feb. 3.

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