By Aidan Hughes
For The Diamond Ridge
College Park hosted a public information session Wednesday showcasing new election technology designed to increase voter confidence in the integrity of election results.
The city will use ElectionGuard, an open source software program for verifying and auditing elections, in the municipal elections on November 7 of this year. Officials said they hope the technology will add an extra layer of confidence in this year’s municipal elections.
“I loved showing off the technology and letting people play with it,” RC Carter, project manager for The Turnout, an organization that helps governments modernize their elections through technology, told The Diamondback.
City officials, along with Carter and Pam Geppert of Hart InterCivic – an election technologies and services company – praised ElectionGuard’s ability to provide an encrypted public copy of the election results. This protects voter privacy and allows for independent verification and auditing of voting tallies, officials said.
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ElectionGuard also provides voters with confirmation codes after casting a ballot, allowing voters to confirm that their vote has been counted. The software also offers a “BallotCheck” feature, which allows voters to verify that a test ballot has accurately captured their selection before casting an official ballot.
College Park’s adoption of ElectionGuard comes as officials across the country struggle to bolster confidence in America’s election integrity, and as former President Donald Trump continues to make baseless claims that election interference occurred during the 2020 presidential election.
Fewer than half of all Americans are “a lot” or “quite a bit” confident that the results of the 2024 presidential election will be accurate, according to a July poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Officials emphasized that integrating ElectionGuard into the city’s existing processes this year will be a valuable addition to an already robust system.
“This will address many of the myths and conspiracies that have been alleged after some of the national elections,” said Janeen Miller, College Park city clerk and elections administrator. “You see that your vote counts as you intended.”
Carter said the city currently has no plans to use ElectionGuard during the 2024 presidential election but would “love to come back.”
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Following national trends, Republicans in Prince George’s County have also cast doubt on the validity of the election results, said Jesse Peed, chairman of the Prince George’s County Republican Central Committee.
“We don’t really have a lot of confidence right now, I’ll put it that way,” Peed said in an interview with The Diamondback.
Efforts such as voter identification requirements, signature verification and better maintenance of the voter rolls would help increase confidence in the election process, Peed added.
John Payne, head of the College Park Board of Election Supervisors, said keeping voter rolls up to date in College Park is a challenge due to high turnover in the student population, but the city is doing what it can.
Payne also sought to assuage any concerns among voters about election integrity in College Park on Wednesday.
“We have receipts that come from the polling book, so we know exactly how many people registered,” Payne said. “We have counters on the poll books, we have counters on the scanners, we keep track of those and make sure that the number of ballots corresponds to the number of people who have registered and cast a vote. Our inventory management is therefore unbearably complete.”