The Montgomery County Board of Elections would like to take this opportunity to address the concern raised in “A Critical Error in Early Voting.” Mr. Pagnucco’s description of the process that occurs in an early voting center is correct, and the Board appreciates his acknowledgement that the mistakes were honest.
Board staff learned of similar occurrences sporadically in several of the Early Voting Centers. In each case brought to our attention, the voter received the correct ballot prior to scanning and was able to cast his or her vote in the appropriate congressional race. The Election Director immediately contacted each Early Voting Center Manager to reinforce the need for accuracy in ballot distribution, instructed that Check-in Judges be reminded to circle the ballot style number on the Voter Authority Card (VAC) to make it easier to see, and Ballot Judges be reminded to double check the ballot style number on the VAC and ensure that they were issuing the correct ballot to each voter. The design of the ballot issuance tables at each Early Voting Center was reviewed to ensure that the possibility of co-mingling ballot styles was eliminated. Finally, a copy of The Seventh State blog was sent to each Early Voting Election Judge so that they might better understand the perception of the public when these types of errors occur.
All of these measures will assist in keeping errors to a minimum, but we urge voters also to pay attention to the ballot they are issued and, if they think they have the wrong ballot or if they have any other concerns regarding the voting process, speak to an election judge immediately so corrective action may be taken prior to scanning the ballot. This will assist the election judges, who are voters who volunteer to work at election time to assist their neighbors with the voting process.
When the State Board of Elections selected the voting system to be used in 2016, it intended to utilize Ballot Marking Devices (BMD) at all Early Voting Centers. This system would have allowed the Check-in Judge to hand each voter a ballot activation card with a bar code on the top, which would contain the voter’s ballot style and, when inserted in the BMD, cause the correct ballot style to appear on the screen. This would eliminate the need for an election judge to select the correct paper ballot for each voter. Unfortunately, problems with how the BMD screen displayed contests with many names could cause voters to not see all candidates before voting. For that reason, the State Board of Elections determined that the BMDs would only be used in 2016 by those individuals who requested them.
The State Board of Elections has requested the manufacturer of the BMD to modify the device so that all names in a contest would appear on the same screen. We believe that this will be accomplished by 2018 so that all voters choosing to vote during Early Voting would be able to utilize this method, thereby eliminating the need for multiple styles of paper ballots at each location and the possibility of human errors.
The Montgomery County Board of Elections strives to ensure that each voter has a pleasant, efficient, and accurate voting process and we encourage voters to contact us with comments or suggestions for improvement, so that we all can work together to make a good voting experience even better.
Marjorie M. Roher Public Information Officer
Montgomery County Board of Elections
According to an opinion by the Open Meetings Compliance Board, the three Republican members of the Montgomery County Board of Elections violated the Open Meetings Act when they held a private conference call. As readers may recall, this call took place during the heated debate over the movement of early voting locations to less Democratic areas in the County.
From the opinion’s conclusion:
We have concluded that three voting members, a majority of the voting members of the elections board, constitute a “quorum” for purposes of the Act such that a conference call among three voting members constituted a meeting subject to the Act. We have recognized that applying the Act’s quorum definition to the elections board is complicated, and this matter posed the unusual circumstance in which the public body’s own definition, when applied, did not secure the public’s right to observe every stage of the public body’s consideration of public business. Although we can see that the board members might reasonably have relied on the bylaws provision when they conducted the board’s business among themselves, we nonetheless find that the conference call violated the Act. We therefore direct the elections board to the acknowledgment requirement in $ 3-211. We have not commented on how the elections board must transact business under the elections laws.
The Montgomery County Board of Elections (BOE) has agreed to reinstate the original nine early voting (EV) centers, instead of closing ones in Burtonsville and Chevy Chase to relocate them to more Republican Potomac and Brookville.
In return, the all-Democratic state legislative delegation has agreed to support legislation to open a tenth EV center in Montgomery. My guess is that this one would be in Potomac, since that location was preferred by the BOE over Brookville when they agreed to reopen the Burtonsville EV center.
Here is the communication from MCDCC:
The Montgomery County Board of Elections (BOE) voted to reinstate 8 of the original early voting centers from the 2014 election and the Wheaton Firehouse to replace the Wheaton Community Center, which is undergoing rennovation. This includes the Praisner and Lawton centers advocated by the MCDCC, County Council, and State Legislators, as well as numerous community members and non-partisan community groups. The decision means that they will submit the 9 centers to the State BOE for approval at their special meeting on Friday October 23.
A critical part of this decision is that the MCDCC and State Delegation made a commitment to submit legislation at the beginning of the Legislative Session in January to add a 10th early voting center in Montgomery County for the 2016 election. The County Council also made a commitment to establish a 10th early voting center.
Although the decision by the Board today will not be final until it is approved by the State BOE, voters in Montgomery County should be pleased with the outcome.
We will be in touch after the State BOE meeting on Friday to report on the final decision.
Councilmember Hucker attacked the change in early voting sites as a “blatant partisan maneuver” that followed “illegal” and “secret” meetings by the Republican Chair of the Board of Elections. From a press conference held earlier today:
In a previous post, Adam Pagnucco examined the effect of the planned shift in early voting centers and found that the changes–passed by the Republican members of the Election Board over the unanimous objection of the Democrats–helped Republicans.
More evidence of partisan shenanigans emerged at the Montgomery County Council hearing. Portions of it shown above in a video put together by the Montgomery County Young Democrats nicely excerpt key moments.
The logical solution is simply to expand the number of early voting centers by two. This allows the placement of additional centers in less densely populated areas of the County, as Republicans favor, while maintaining existing centers in high density areas, including one with an above average share of African-American and Latino voters.
Republicans, however, tend to view early voting as one big “anti-conservative gambit,” weirdly claiming that it is an attempt to “make it harder for ‘the Republican base’ to vote” even though early voting allows everyone to vote. You’d think a party with so many resources would welcome the chance to get voters to the polls.