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Md. thousands short on election judges, Hogan backs off demand to have every precinct open

WJLA – Washington D.C. logo WJLA – Washington D.C. 8/6/2020 Brad Bell

By most accounts, Maryland’s primary election did not go smoothly. 

Mail-in ballots were mailed late or not at all and on election days there were long lines at some of the few polling places that opened. 

 In response, Governor Larry Hogan directed that for the November general election every precinct in the state open on election day and that every voter be mailed an application for a mail-in ballot. 

His plan, however, has met stiff resistance from, among others, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks who last week said, “That’s just not something we’re going to be able to do in the middle of a pandemic.”

Among the problems Alsobrooks cites: The fact that many of the typically older people who man polling places won't risk it this year. 

“Only 34% of our trained poll workers indicated a willingness to work,” she says.

Alsobrooks is proposing that, instead of the more than 200 precincts which normally open in the county, 15 early voting places like the Bowie gym be open instead for an extended period and on Election Day. 

She also wants all voters sent an actual mail-in ballot, not an application for one. 

This week, the governor blasted the idea in a letter to the state board of elections saying, “Any attempt to close 90% of our minority precincts would likely result in the filing of a civil rights violation... it would justifiably result in allegations of voter suppression.”

On Wednesday night Alsobrooks fired back, accusing Hogan of trying to educate her about the “painful history of voting as a black American,” and saying her one agenda is the health of Prince Georgians.

The President of the Prince George’s County Board of Elections has not adopted Alsobrooks's position. 

John Rowe, in a letter to Governor Hogan says: “There were never any plans by this board to open only 15 polling places on Election Day.” 

The letter does go on to list a number of challenges to opening in-person polling places. First among them is a lack of election workers, a problem that is expected to get worse.

The president of the organization which represents all local board of elections says a normal in-person election simply can’t happen this year. 

 “Without changing the number of polling places it’s not going to be possible to open every polling place,” says David Gerreis, President of the Maryland Association of Election Officials.  “We’re about 14,800 election judges short as of yesterday.”

The State Board of Elections will meet again Friday in hopes of finalizing a plan. 

Late Thursday afternoon, Hogan wrote a letter to Linda Lamone, administrator of the State Board of Elections, saying "I have no intention of interfering in your duty to conduct the upcoming general election. However, the Board must act with much greater urgency to fulfill its responsibility to conduct the election under state law."

The letter acknowledges that Lamone has "emergency powers" at her disposal "to consolidate precincts and modify deadlines." (Read the full letter below.)

If you want to become an election judge in Maryland, CLICK HERE to learn more from the State Board of Elections.

Learn more about becoming an election worker in Virginia HERE.

D.C. is also having an election worker open house on August 12. 

For more on mail-in voting:


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