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Snafus at the Polls Delay and Deter Voters

Rachel Baye

As voting got under way Tuesday morning, there were several reports of polling mishaps that caused some voters to leave without casting ballots.

At least three polling places in Baltimore City opened later than the legally required 7 a.m. start due to ballot scanner problems.

The Baltimore IT Academy in North Baltimore opened about two hours late because the scanners were in a locked room where poll workers couldn’t get them.

Kirk Wesley was outside campaigning for State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and was surprised when polls didn’t open as scheduled.

“There were voters who came and I’m assuming had to get to work and could not stay to vote,” he said. “Two hours later after the polls open, or were supposed to open, they started letting people in to vote. There was a line that gathered here at the door.”

He estimated that between 50 and 75 people came in those initial two hours before the doors opened.

The IT Academy will keep its doors open until 9 p.m. to give voters in the three precincts there more time to cast their ballot as a result of the morning's mishap.

Poll workers initially delayed opening the Roosevelt Recreation Center in Hampden while they tried to fix a malfunctioning ballot scanner, said Ricardo Manderson, who was there campaigning for Delegate Antonio Hayes, a candidate for the state Senate.

“The ballots wouldn’t scan and they actually had – when they tried to scan them, they started jamming in the machine, so they had to go to their contingency and start putting ballots in manually to the emergency drop spot,” he said.

Hampden resident Mary Miles said when she arrived around 8:20 Tuesday morning, she was told to leave her ballot in the pile, rather than scan it.

“There was a big pile of ballots just sitting there, so it didn’t have that nice feeling where you know it’s been counted when you enter it into the computer,” she said.

In addition, the Friendship Preparatory Academy in West Baltimore was closed because of a lack of water, according to the State Board of Elections. Voters were sent to the nearby James Mosher Elementary.

And The Ellerslie apartments in Pen Lucy also opened late as a result of problems with ballot scanners, said Amy Cruice, director of the Election Protection Campaign at the ACLU of Maryland, and a few voters were even advised to leave.

These sorts of delays and problems disenfranchise some voters, she said.

“When somebody had planned on voting before work or early in the morning, the chance that they will have the time later to vote – you know, for some people they may have the luxury to do that, and others may not.”

Donna Duncan, the State Board of Elections’ assistant deputy for election policy, said several scanners around the state had to be replaced.

“A scanner being replaced is a common practice,” she said. “These are not out of the ordinary issues.”

She referred questions about specific polling places in Baltimore to the city Board of Elections, which did not return calls.

Dominique Maria Bonessi and Mary Rose Madden contributed reporting.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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