updated 10/12/2006 11:58:11 AM ET 2006-10-12T15:58:11

Diebold Election Systems Inc., the company that manufactures Maryland's electronic voting machines, is scrambling to print 1.6 million paper ballots for next month's general election amid worries by some that the machines could suffer the same problems as in September's primary.

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The state has ordered the paper ballots, about one for every two registered voters, for possible use on Nov. 7. A spokeswoman told The (Baltimore) Sun Wednesday that it had not expected such a large order and delivery for some will be delayed a week.

At least 66,000 of those paper ballots will be mailed to voters as absentee ballots. The rest will be available as provisional ballots, which were used last month, and some precincts ran out.

"This is a response to all of the issues," said Margaret A. Jurgensen, elections director in Montgomery County, referring to the volume of the printing. "We have had to double or maybe even triple our order."

Paper ballot safety
Some politicians, including Gov. Robert Ehrlich and Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan have urged voters who are troubled by electronic machines to use absentee ballots as an alternative in next month's general election.

As of Wednesday, the state had exceeded the 65,000 absentee ballots requested in the 2002 gubernatorial election, with 26 days left before the general election, according to Mary Cramer Wagner, the voter registration director for the State Board of Elections. 2006 key races

Barbara Fisher, election director in Anne Arundel County, said this week's delivery of 17,000 absentee ballots, or 20 percent of her order, will allow her to begin filling the 6,400 requests she has received.

"We literally just got another box full of absentee requests from the post office, which is unusual for a gubernatorial election," Fisher said. "I'm concerned about being able to handle the absentee process, and we're trying to hire more staff. But we can't just hire them off of the street."

The delivery delay is limited to the state's larger counties, according to Jessica Goon, a spokeswoman for Diebold.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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