Maryland Voting 'Issues'

The Washington

Election Day in Montgomery County and parts of Prince George's opened in chaos and frustration this morning, as a series of problems and missteps left thousands of citizens unable to vote or forced to cast provisional ballots.

By mid-morning, a bevy of statewide and local candidates had begun calling for polling stations to stay open past the scheduled 8 p.m. closing time. Montgomery County's Board of Elections held an emergency meeting and agreed to petition the Circuit Court to extend voting times until 9 p.m.

No electronic voting machines were operational when polls opened at 7 a.m. in Montgomery County, because election officials failed to deliver the required voter authorization cards to the county's 238 precincts. Voters were supposed to be given provisional paper ballots instead. But several precincts quickly ran out of those backup ballots.
This was the topic of discussion at the deli where I go to get lunch. New electronic voting machines were down (their authorization cards, necessary to activate the machines were 'misplaced' and weren't found until 6:45, 15 minutes before polls opened) and the provisional ballots quickly ran out. Some polling places had as few as 100 paper ballots. People were told to leave and come back to try again later.

The machines are up now, but not all of the registered voter's names appeared on the electronic lists and there were no paper back-ups.

Most people at the deli were pissed because they didn't get a chance to vote before work. (I was planning on going after work and it seems like I made the right call.) Not everybody will be able to come back later and will be disenfranchised.

The other, bigger, concern is due to the nature of Maryland elections. Maryland has three political power bases - Baltimore, the Washington suburbs and the more conservative, rural areas that make up the rest of the state. Montgomery County and P.G. (Prince George's) County should have been the 'hometown' support centers for many candidates that won't get much support from other parts of the state. Additionally, as Montgomery and P.G. County lean liberal, that portion of the vote is diluted. This is, of course, a primary, so it won't affect the Republican/Democrat mix, but it will affect what candidates get nominated.

Polling has been extended from 8:00pm to 9:00pm.

How this will shake out, I don't know. More analysis tomorrow as results start coming out.

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