Baltimore County Elections Chief Fears "Worst" Election In Decades
The scramble is on statewide to find enough polling places and election judges for November.
Two weeks ago, Gov. Larry Hogan directed the Maryland Board of Elections to have every polling place in Maryland open for early voting and on Election Day.
Baltimore County Board of Elections Director Katie Brown said this is going to be the most difficult election to pull off in her three decade career.
Brown said she needs around 4,000 election judges to run the county’s 230 polling places.
“It’s looking very bleak that we will have enough,” Brown said.
Brown said they have been reaching out to several thousand people who might be interested. So far they’ve only heard back from about 1,500, and around 30% of them say they will not work on Election Day.
“And then the ones that told us they will serve have conditions,” Brown said. “It depends on how the pandemic is at that time and if there will be enough PPE for them.”
If she doesn’t get enough election judges, then Brown said she will have to consolidate some polling places.
“And that’s going to cause long lines and wait times,” Brown said.
Add to that the loss so far of around half a dozen polling locations.
They are in private buildings like churches and assisted living facilities. The county has been told they can’t be used for polling places in November.
Brown, who started working in the county board of elections office in 1987, and has been director since 2008, said there is a lot to do in a short amount of time.
“We’re going to struggle through it and get it done to the best of our ability,” Brown said. “32 years, this is going to be the worst.”
U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat who represents Maryland’s 2nd congressional district, has skin in the game. Ruppersberger is on the ballot this fall.
Ruppersberger said, “Americans should not have to choose between exercising their constitutional right to vote and potentially contracting a lethal virus.”
Ruppersberger wants the general election process to mirror the June primary. While there were far fewer polling places, a mail in ballot was sent to each registered voter. Under the governor’s order for November, voting by mail will be a two-step process. You will get an application for an absentee ballot in the mail. You have to send that in, in order to get a ballot.
Ruppersberger said that two-step process will suppress the mail-in vote.
Ruppersberger said, “I just can’t understand how he’s made this decision and I really hope he considers changing it, to do it the way we did it in the last election.”
Ruppersberger’s Republican opponent, State Senator Johnny Ray Salling, supports the governor’s plan to open all polling locations.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Salling said. “I think we need to get back to normalcy.”
In a July 8 letter to the Maryland Board of Elections, the governor said the June primary had a series of failures, including long lines at the few polling places open and thousands of people who never received their mail in ballots.
Former Maryland State Senator Jim Brochin, a Democrat, knows a thing or two about running for public office in Baltimore County. He won four senate races and two years ago lost by 17 votes to Johnny Olszewski in the Democratic primary for county executive.
Brochin supports opening all the polling locations, but adds they must be made safe, following CDC guidelines. For starters, Brochin said if a polling location has windows, throw them open.
“If people are going to be outside standing in line in coats, there is no reason they can’t come in with their coats and there’s no reason the windows can’t be open and there’s social distancing,” Brochin said
Brochin disagrees with the governor regarding the two-step process for mail in ballots. He said they should be sent automatically to all eligible voters.