By Peta Richkus.
After the recommendation of the bi-partisan Board of Elections, as well as that of the Maryland Association of Election Officials, I really expected Gov. Hogan to go with the suggested hybrid election, which seemed to address all concerns: public health, capacity, security, efficiency.
But no. Hogan is choosing instead to increase the dollar cost and the confusion, and to encourage more people to go out and mingle in the midst of a pandemic.
Hopefully, the current trend of COVID-19 cases will reverse by the November election, but I trust you know that the number of COVID-19 cases in Maryland is increasing.
The county Boards of Election lost many of their experienced Election Judges in the Primary – being older, and thus more susceptible to COVID-19, they were not willing to potentially risk their lives. The local Boards will be hard-pressed to recruit the thousands needed for a full contingent to cover all the usual polling places, as Hogan has ordered. Baltimore City says they will need more than 4,000 people; Anne Arundel County, 3,000, for example. The populous Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties, where the coronavirus situation is measurably more serious, will have even more difficulty staffing all their polling locations. Recruiting novices and implementing the required COVID-related health and physical distance precautions will add to the confusion and misinformation, as well as the cost. (I have been an Election Judge and I have trained Election Judges, so I have some understanding of the job and responsibilities.)
Everyone agrees there were not enough in-person voting locations for the Primary. But trying to open ALL polling places will be counter-productive.
According to an article in Maryland Matters, David Garreis, the president of the Maryland Association of Election Officials, told the governor in a letter this past week that local boards of elections don’t have the resources to process thousands of ballot requests. “We cannot overstate the devastating consequences likely to result if the State of Maryland does not plan now to mail every voter a ballot for the 2020 Presidential General Election.”
Attorney General Brian Frosh opposes Governor Hogan’s stance, as do Senators Paul Pinsky and Cheryl Kagan.
But what about voter fraud?
“Voter fraud” is a Red Herring. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation’s own data shows how negligible the issue of voter fraud is. According to the Heritage Foundation, there were ZERO convictions for voter fraud in Maryland in 2016; TWO in 2018 – among 3,954,027 eligible voters! There have apparently been only SEVEN convictions for voter fraud in Maryland since 2012. (I am not counting the Paul Schurick/Julius Henson convictions: as those of us old enough to remember, that wasn’t the kind of voter fraud we are talking about here.
You have probably seen that the Republican National Committee and other Republican groups have dropped their lawsuit against California to stop the state from mailing absentee ballots to all voters ahead of the 2020 general election. In the past, it’s been Republicans who have been the biggest supporters of mail-in ballots.
Another issue raised by VBM opponents desperate for a reason to object: ‘motor voter registration has resulted in many invalid addresses.’ (BTW, MVA isn’t the only state agency that forwards its customers’ information for automatic voter registration.) Maybe it could do better, but the State Board of Elections manages to cull/correct/remove HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of records each year: 261,942 last year, per their 2019 accounting.
It should be easy for every eligible voter to vote, not more difficult. Vote By Mail does not really favor either party. As evidence: my Democratic sources say, “VBM does not favor either party, though there might be a slight advantage for Democrats.” But I have to balance that with what my Republican sources say, as recently as this week: “VBM does not favor either party, though there might be a slight advantage for Republicans.” (lol)
Voter turnout during the Vote By Mail Primary was UP. It couldn’t be that Governor Hogan is aiming to reduce voter turnout, I would hope.
What can you do? Contact your elected officials and tell them to speak out against Hogan’s decision to, in line with Trump directives, make voting in November as confusing and complicated as possible. Enter your address to find your elected officials.
Meanwhile, request an Absentee Ballot from the State Board of Elections (SBE).
And know that you can find information about voting in November, including polling locations and the schedule for Early Voting (October 22, 2020 through Thursday, October 29, 2020, 8 am to 8 pm), and Voter Registration at the SBE website: https://elections.maryland.gov/index.html
Peta Richkus is a retired State employee. MD Secretary of General Services, Jan 1999 – Jan 2003; Commissioner, Port of Baltimore, MD Port Administration, Jul 2008 – Jan 2014.