Maryland Election Board Wants Fewer But Larger Polling Centers In November

  • Anne Arundel County
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland Board of Elections(SBE) met last week to discuss potentially utilizing 282 public high schools across the state as polling places for the upcoming general election.

The move would eliminate several in-person polling locations across precincts, which could lessen the stresses of fulfilling election judge and employee shortages that are currently plaguing Maryland. Across the state, over 13,000 or 35% of election judges are needed, as reported by Maryland Matters last week.

In St. Mary’s County, a press release was recently put out encouraging residents to become election judges. This was likely to help fill a gap that the Maryland Association of Election Officials is reporting to be a 35.99% vacancy rate in the county. Of the 578 election judges needed in St. Mary’s, 208 positions are reportedly still vacant.

Calvert County’s numbers are somewhat better, with a vacancy rate currently at 22.92%, or a total of 58 openings.

Charles County currently, is listed by the Maryland Association of Election Officials as the worst jurisdiction in the state, with 79.31% of their election judge positions still vacant. Of the 957 judges needed, they still have 759 vacancies.

The current shortage of election employees could have unprecedented impacts in November. If positions are not filled, many polling places would likely be forced to merge, which would likely lead to longer wait times to cast a ballot or other potential confusions.

Moving to the SBE recommendation would maintain in-person polling locations equivalent to the number of high schools in every jurisdiction, but would allow some flexibility to local boards in deciding if they need more locations.

The decision to adopt any changes to the current plan for the general election falls in the lap of Gov. Larry Hogan[R], who recently declared that all traditional polling locations would be open on election day. Hogan has been a somewhat outspoken critic of other politicians who has looked to potentially hinder in-person voting amid COVID-19, and he has also been critical of his own state’s Board of Elections.

“Further attempts to suppress the vote by massive closures of polls must be stopped or there will be serious consequences,” Hogan said in a recent letter to the SBE on Aug. 3. “Without your immediate action to fix these issues, it is very likely that you will again have massive failures of the June primary repeated in November.”

Read Hogan’s full letter below:

If Hogan opposes SBE’s recommendations, the board will likely move forward with local boards’ individual plans to merge polling places at their meeting on Aug. 12.

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