Tag Archives: Burtonsville

Is the Change in Early Voting Locations a Partisan Move?

Today, I’m pleased to present a guest post by Adam Pagnucco:

Is This Voter Suppression?

Last week, Montgomery County’s Board of Elections voted to close early voting centers in Chevy Chase and Burtonsville and open new ones in Potomac and Brookeville. This prompted charges of voter suppression from Montgomery County Council Member Tom Hucker, who represents Burtonsville and started an online petition to overturn the decision. Hucker points out that the Board’s vote was on party lines, with a Republican majority voting for the change, and that the Burtonsville site has a significant concentration of minority voters. The Board’s Republican President, who ran for County Executive last year, claims that the change was motivated not by politics but by a desire to expand early voting to areas that have not had it.

Who’s right? Let’s look at the data.

First, let’s examine the demographic characteristics of the areas surrounding the early voting sites. For this exercise, I pulled U.S. Census data on zip codes within one mile of each site. Zip codes 20814 and 20815 apply to the Lawton Center in Chevy Chase, 20866 and 20905 apply to the Praisner Center in Burtonsville, 20854 applies to the Potomac Community Recreation Center and 20832 and 20833 apply to the Longwood Community Recreation Center in Brookeville. Following is information on race and income of the residents in these zip codes for the years 2009-2013.

White Non-Hispanic Percentage of Population

Lawton Center, Chevy Chase                                          77%
Praisner Center, Burtonsville                                        38
Potomac                                                                                       68
Brookeville/Olney                                                                  64

County Total                                                                               48

Black Non-Hispanic Percentage of Population

Lawton Center, Chevy Chase                                          4%
Praisner Center, Burtonsville                                        32
Potomac                                                                                       4
Brookeville/Olney                                                                  12

County Total                                                                               17

Hispanic Percentage of Population

Lawton Center, Chevy Chase                                          9%
Praisner Center, Burtonsville                                        9
Potomac                                                                                       7
Brookeville/Olney                                                                  9

County Total                                                                               17

Mean Household Income

Lawton Center, Chevy Chase                                          189,879
Praisner Center, Burtonsville                                        127,711
Potomac                                                                                       256,851
Brookeville/Olney                                                                  143,685

County Total                                                                               132,222

On these measures, Burtonsville stands out from the other locations. It has a lower income than the other three sites, a lower percentage of non-Hispanic whites and a higher percentage of African Americans. Its African American percentage is nearly double the county’s average. And yet, this site is targeted for closure.

Hucker’s argument is not just rooted in demographics, however. He asserts that the changes are motivated by a desire to advantage Republican voters at the expense of Democrats. Is he right? Let’s look at data on voter registration and actual voting.

For this exercise, I pulled data on voter registration as of August 2015 on all precincts within one mile of each early voting site. Here is the total number of registered voters of all parties near each site.

Registered Voters, All Parties, within one mile

Lawton Center, Chevy Chase                                          22,012
Praisner Center, Burtonsville                                        12,833
Potomac                                                                                       11,649
Brookeville/Olney                                                                  13,014

The Lawton Center is within walking distance of Downtown Bethesda, the biggest single employment location in the county, so this statistic actually understates its potential reach. The Praisner Center saw more early votes than any site in the county in the 2014 general election with the exception of Silver Spring. Any prioritization of voter access without regard to party should protect the continued operation of both sites.

Now let’s look at the Republican percentage of registered voters.

Republican Percentage of Registered Voters within one mile

Lawton Center, Chevy Chase                                          17%
Praisner Center, Burtonsville                                        16
Potomac                                                                                       20
Brookeville/Olney                                                                  29

County Total                                                                               19

In terms of Republican registration percentage, not only do the two new sites exceed the two closed sites, they also exceed the county average.

Registration is only part of the story. Let’s look at the percentage of the vote received by Republican Governor Larry Hogan in last year’s general election in precincts within one mile of each site.

Hogan Percentage of Gubernatorial General Vote within one mile

Lawton Center, Chevy Chase                                          33%
Praisner Center, Burtonsville                                        33
Potomac                                                                                       43
Brookeville/Olney                                                                  55

County Total                                                                               37

Again, the GOP enjoys a net advantage. The Brookeville area is one of the few parts of the county in which Larry Hogan scored an outright win, and – guess what? – the Republican-majority Board of Elections has given it an early voting site.

U.S. Census and voter data show that the early voting site change on net has improved voting convenience for Republicans and some groups of white and high-income residents while decreasing voting convenience for African Americans and lower-income residents in East County. The voting trends near the sites suggest that this may help Governor Hogan’s performance in the next election.

Is this voter suppression? I guess that depends on your definition of “suppression.” But since U.S. Census and voting data are publicly available – and the latter is held by the Board of Elections – it’s hard to believe that the board was acting blindly. Suppression or not, this has the look of manipulation for partisan gain.


North Response to Luedtke Post

I received the following response from Terrill North to Del. Eric Luedtke’s post about the needs of the northern end of Montgomery County Council District 5. Like Evan Glass, he is a candidate for this open council seat.


I’m glad Del. Luedtke is paying attention, but as the unnamed candidate he mentioned canvassing the area I’d like to add a few details.

I began talking with my neighbors in Burtonsville “officially” in 2010 when I led Impact Silver Spring’s efforts knocking on over 4500 doors and meeting with community leaders examining local needs.

Residents told us they wanted:

·         constructive activities for the youth, and
·         better job opportunities for adults.

That year (with seed money from Councilmember Navarro), we expanded Impact’s afterschool program (then serving 60-90 kids in Long Branch) to East County (now serving over 400 youth primarily in East County).  This year, we worked with a coalition of stakeholders to launch the first workforce development program serving East County (so local residents could benefit from job opportunities coming with the FDA Science Center).  We are also currently working to bring Montgomery College continuing education programs to the East County Regional Services Center.

I’m already enacting the plan for East County based on resident concerns.

As a candidate, spending a lot of time in East County is second nature to me because most of my in-laws live there; I’ve been hearing their concerns without asking since long before 2010!  Since my campaign kick-off at Cuba de Ayer on Route 198 in February, I have been actively engaging Burtonsville voters (and non-voters).  I will be in White Oak this weekend meeting with 230 families from another multi-cultural youth program I work with, structuring a summer day camp featuring sports, meals, and academics (modeled on the program I saved from Bush Administration cuts in 2007 as a Hill staffer).  That’s after judging an oratorical contest for East County youth that morning (1st annual competition of MoCo youth in the Baltimore Urban Debate League).

I will disagree with Eric about one thing, I don’t think East County is ignored.  The key, however, is that residents need to vote!  The precinct at Greencastle Elementary had an 8% turnout in the 2010 local primary, compared to 40% at Takoma Park Elementary.   I spoke at a D14 Democratic Club forum last week where the only Burtonsville residents in attendance were candidates for central committee.  The more folks vote, the more quickly issues will be addressed.

I develop institutions that improve the lives of District Five residents wherever they live.  I put as much effort into establishing a workforce development program in East County as securing over $1 million for stormwater mitigation in Takoma Park.  Best of both worlds!



MoCo County Council District 5 and Its Forgotten Northern End

This is a guest post by Del. Eric Luedtke. Eric represents District 14 (Montgomery) in the House of Delegates.

For years now, literally years, there has been a shopping center in Montgomery County sitting almost entirely empty, only a few stores open, fronting a large expanse of empty blacktop fit only for tumbleweed. The shopping center can only be called suburban blight, something Montgomery County residents aren’t exactly used to. It’s not the sort of thing you expect to happen in a county with as much affluence as ours. Except it has, in Burtonsville, where I live. The shopping center’s slow decline was the result of a combination of difficult economic factors and a large corporation (Giant Foods) who clearly cares more about playing economic hardball than doing right by the community.

Ask anyone in Burtonsville about it and they’ll tell you something revealing about their perception of the politics of our county: if this were elsewhere, it wouldn’t have happened. There would have been a sense of urgency. There would have been a plan from the beginning to do something about the decline of the commercial core of a major Montgomery County community. Or about the incredible imbalance of jobs and housing in the Route 29 corridor. Or the lack of amenities. Or the nightmare that is Route 29 during the morning rush. But there hasn’t been much of a sense of urgency. Instead, we’ve seen what might be described as benign neglect. Lots of people in county government chafe at that assessment, and people in other parts of the county also complain about their needs not being met. But if the measure of success is results, we just haven’t seen the results we need.

I don’t mean to say the county has done nothing. A number of our councilmembers have done their best to help move things forward. But in no way have efforts to address the challenges of the upper 29 corridor been close to what we’ve seen elsewhere. For whatever reason, buried deep in the power dynamics of our county, or because of the challenges of outreach in an unincorporated community, residents of Burtonsville, Fairland, and White Oak just don’t feel like they are being heard.

Witness the White Oak Science Sector Master Plan, which has been under debate between the Council and Planning Commission for months now. As residents demanded more jobs and amenities, county planners with the encouragement of councilmembers responded by developing a new plan for the area around the FDA campus which would include mixed-use development. It would be a new economic anchor for the county, and would give east county residents the kind of walkable core community that other parts of the county have had long since. And yet, its future is in doubt.

The plan is being squeezed from two ends by traffic issues. From the north, hordes of Howard County commuters clog up 29. In the south, some residents of the communities around four corners have been opposing any new development because they are concerned about more traffic. And there are some members of the Council who seem likely to vote to weaken the White Oak plan to appease these folks, applying so strict a traffic test that bringing any substantial new jobs or amenities to the area would be virtually impossible. In other words, our residents could be robbed of the jobs and amenities they’re demanding because of out-of-county commuters and the opposition of a community that already has good access to jobs and amenities. It’s a difficult pill for many of us to swallow.

Enter the District 5 Council candidates. This district, newly redrawn following the census, encompasses the entire 29 corridor from the DC line to the Howard County line. Five candidates are running. None are from our end of the district. All are focusing their efforts in the southern end, where more of the votes lie. As far as I know, only one of them has been actively knocking on doors in Fairland or Burtonsville. Once again, our forgotten corner of the county seems to be an afterthought.

It’s frustrating to the whole community, and to me in particular. I know and respect each of the candidates, and I’ve spoken to each of them extensively about the needs north of Randolph Road. I’ve given driving tours of the community to some of them. I’ve sat down over lunch at Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville to pitch them on more focused economic development strategies. I’ve emphasized the importance of the proposed Route 29 BRT line to relieving congestion and allowing any development to occur. But they aren’t showing up to talk to upper 29 voters. And if you check out the issue platforms on their websites, what you’ll see are generalities rather than the real plans we would like to see for how to resolve our issues.

Our residents deserve a councilmember who understands their issues, who will fight to resolve them, and who is committed to actively listening to them. None of the District 5 council candidates has yet demonstrated that commitment. Perhaps they will during the May 28 candidate’s forum being held at 7:00 PM at the East County Regional Services Center. But until that happens, my endorsement, let alone my vote, remains firmly in the undecided column. And I know many of my neighbors feel exactly the same way.