Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy wants to ensure voter intimidation doesn’t take place in the majority-Black jurisdiction during the general election.
Her office launched “Operation Protect the Vote for All” which focuses on making sure vulnerable populations such as senior citizens, immigrants and those in the LGBTQ community aren’t intimidated and can vote.
The push comes as President Donald Trump continues to claim voting by mail would be “a disaster” and encouraging his supporters to man polling places during in-person voting in states with early voting and Election Day on Nov. 3.
“We want every single Prince Georgian to know we care about them,” Braveboy said during a press conference Sept. 30. “Voter intimidation is actually a crime. We work along with the [Maryland] Office of Attorney General to prosecute those who violate our election laws in Maryland.”
According to state law, a person found guilty of voter intimidation through “the use of force, threat [or] menace” can be fined up to $2,500 and serve up to five years in prison.
The Voting Rights Alliance, comprised of legislators, activists and nonprofit organizations, highlights more than six dozen forms of voter suppression. Some of them include persons impersonating a law enforcement or immigration official; voter challenges at polls; and disparate racial treatment at the polls.
In Prince George’s, residents voting by mail can drive to a polling site and place a ballot inside a drop-off box. Security personnel such as a county sheriff will be stationed nearby to make sure they aren’t compromised.
Another part of Braveboy’s voter plan is to help make sure vulnerable populations, such as immigrants, aren’t intimidated and can vote.
Maryland residents must register to vote by Tuesday, Oct. 13 and request mail-in ballots by Oct. 20.
“It’s important for our country to get out and vote like your life depends on it,” said Austin Martinez, an activist from Hyattsville.
Another part of Braveboy’s plan will determine which of the estimated 500 people currently housed in the county jail are eligible to vote.
The plan to help those incarcerated comes after several criminal justice and voting advocates began work this summer on a similar voting initiative.
At least three organizations – Out For Justice, Common Cause Maryland and the ACLU of Maryland – compiled a list of those incarcerated from the majority of correctional facilities in the state’s 24 counties.
Then each list got sent to the state board of elections, which mailed off voter information packets to each jail that included a cover letter explaining voter eligibility, a mail-in ballot application and a pre-addressed stamped envelope.
According to state law, people ineligible to vote are those convicted of a felony and currently serving a court-ordered sentence; anyone convicted of buying or selling votes; and “under guardianship for mental disability and the appropriate court has found by clear and convincing evidence that you cannot communicate, with or without accommodations, a desire to participate in the voting process.”
Except for buying or selling votes, a person on probation can vote, according to the law.
Incarcerated individuals charged with misdemeanor offenses and those held on pretrial status are eligible to vote.
Aside from not fully explaining the election law for those incarcerated, Nicole Hanson-Mundell, executive director for Out for Justice of Baltimore, said “an execution plan” wasn’t presented by state election officials to ensure those incarcerated in the county will vote.
“When our elected officials decide to engage in performance politics, let’s make sure the people we are actually here to serve…are going to get accurate information,” she said. “What is frustrating for us is how long it took for individuals to speak out about this issue.”
Out For Justice, an advocacy group comprised of formerly incarcerated individuals which led the statewide voting effort plan, joined other organizations in a Sept. 10 letter that notes recommendations for state election officials to follow so that everyone eligible votes.
One suggestion calls for the state to provide secure boxes of voter forms and ballots.
One will be provided at the county jail, said Monica Roebuck, a member of the county’s board of elections.
In addition to serving on a voter protection committee with the Maryland Democratic Party, she assisted state Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City) with his voting efforts for city jails in Baltimore that are managed by the state. McCray is first vice chair of the party.
“Even for those people who have not been in jail and served time, this is an important job to make sure that everyone in our society has the right to vote,” Roebuck said. “Voting empowers you. You feel like, ‘Wow, I have some power over my own destiny.’ You are exercising your constitutional right.”