Maryland’s local boards of elections now have enough election judges to staff Election Day voting centers, but state officials say the search for new judges is far from over.
A surge of state workers, coupled with a need for fewer election judges after the switch to voting centers, means local boards of elections now have enough staff for the Nov. 3 election, Deputy Elections Administrator Nikki Charlson said during a Friday afternoon State Board of Elections meeting.
Local election boards faced thousands of vacant positions after Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) last month ordered a more conventional election for the fall. The prospect of opening every polling center during a global pandemic left election officials scrambling to recruit election judges, and looking to consolidate polling centers due to the lack of staff.
After Hogan approved a switch from thousands of precinct-level polling centers to roughly 370 larger voting centers, and efforts to incentivize state workers to sign up as judges, local boards now say they’re well staffed.
But Charlson said local election officials are now looking to “build up their bench” with extra election judges, in case of a second wave of COVID-19 hits the state or there is a sudden need for additional workers. State Board Chairman Michael C. Cogan (R) urged voters to continue signing up to be election judges as the November election approaches.
Some counties are looking for judges from specific political parties. Allegany County is looking for Democratic election judges, while Baltimore City and Baltimore, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Talbot counties want more Republican judges. Montgomery County is also looking for Spanish-speaking judges.
Board members approved a slew of local boards’ proposals for voting centers. Roughly 255 voting centers and nearly 70 early voting locations were approved during Friday’s meeting, with a majority of Maryland’s counties submitting their plans for November. Frederick County and Baltimore City are among the few jurisdictions that haven’t submitted a plan yet.
While many counties intend to use high schools and community centers as voting centers, some are using athletic arenas: Prince George’s county intends to use the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center on Election Day.
Concerns over ballot applications
Board Member Malcolm L. Funn (D) said he recently received a mailed ballot application, despite already having applied online. Board members previously said voters who apply for a ballot online won’t receive an application in the mail.
Erin Perrone, the director of the state board’s election management and reform division, said some voters who apply online for a mail-in ballot will still receive an application in the mail. State election officials gave applications data to their printing vendor on Aug. 6 — and voters who applied after that date, or whose applications weren’t processed by that date, will receive an application in the mail.
Funn said he applied around July 20, but Perrone noted that his application wasn’t processed until Aug. 15.
Some who received applications despite applying online were outraged, including Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery), who slammed the unneeded mailings as “an extra step, and an extra burden, and extra money that’s spent.”
Kagan and her staff went through the state’s online ballot application process on July 29, but still received applications in the mail Thursday.
Perrone noted that voters might not need to resend the mailed application form, and can check their application status via the state’s online voter lookup system. Roughly 378,200 Marylanders have requested mail-in ballots so far, with nearly 4 million voters expected to receive mailed application forms in the coming days.
By Bennett Leckrone