Citizens await to vote at the Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex in Fort Washington on June 2, as election workers sit behind plexiglass for protection. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Citizens await to vote at the Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex in Fort Washington on June 2, as election workers sit behind plexiglass for protection. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Similar to other jurisdictions in Maryland, it remains unclear how the Nov. 3 general elections will look in Prince George’s County.

Elections Administrator Alisha Alexander briefed the county’s Board of Elections on Monday, July 13 to conduct a regular election during the coronavirus pandemic and a directive from Gov. Larry Hogan for the state to conduct in-person elections.

“It’s not that the election directors in the state don’t want to comply, it’s that there are many challenges that we have to overcome for the election to be successful,” Alexander said during a teleconference call. “At this point, we’re just trying to figure out what we can do.”

Alexander, who serves as board vice president of the Maryland Association of Elections Officials, said the group wants to “have a sit-down” with the governor to address possibly election challenges.

For instance, the association requests to push up the absentee ballot request deadline sooner than Oct. 27 to allow election officials more time to process returned ballots. The group also wants assurance that each county receives enough personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer for election workers.

All counties and Baltimore City may need to secure places to use as voting precincts because some places such as senior citizen centers and churches are either closed, cannot accommodate the number of people, or chose not to participate during while the coronavirus pandemic remains in effect.

In Prince George’s, the office conducted a survey last week that noted 31 percent of election judges who responded said they aren’t interested in working in the November election. Additionally, Alexander said the number of election judges could decrease another 15-18% on Election Day.

She didn’t say how many participated in the survey, but the county uses more than 3,500 election judges at 245 polling places.

In terms of training, Alexander said social-gathering guidelines only allow up to 10 people per class. Three or four classes are held simultaneously in the morning and evening, meaning no more than 80 people per day can be trained — far fewer than the 200 or so the county typically trained each day pre-pandemic.

“It is going to be very, very difficult to fill that gap,” she said.

Hogan initiated the voting order July 8 with at least three provisions: open all early voting centers and polling stations; promptly send absentee ballot applications for every voter who may decide to cast by mail; and encourage state employees to supplement election staffing needs and provide necessary personal protective equipment for staff and volunteers.

“While I know you have been inundated with suggestions from political leaders in both parties and special interest groups to change the electoral process, this discussion should not be subject to undue partisanship or political influence,” Hogan wrote to the state Board of Elections. “Providing citizens with accessible, accountable, and transparent ways to cast their ballot is an essential component of our democratic republic and your primary responsibility.”

State law allows the Republican governor to choose how elections are run in a state dominated by Democratic voters.

That still didn’t stop Democratic officials from criticizing the two-term governor.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a statement Friday that places such as Baltimore City would need to train and recruit more than 4,000 election judges and another 3,000 in Anne Arundel County.

“The judges will be exposed to each other during training and to thousands of voters during the election. Who will take those risks?” Frosh wrote. “I agree with Governor Hogan that ‘this discussion should not be subject to undue partisanship or political influence…’ Bowing to Donald Trump’s reckless demands for in-person voting puts at risk the lives of Maryland citizens and risks disenfranchising many thousands of eligible voters.”

Cheryl Landis, who chairs the Prince George’s Democratic Central Committee, also wrote a letter Friday to Hogan with a few recommendations such as sending all voters absentee ballots instead of voters requesting them.

“I am the first to admit that while I am not credentialed and learned on infectious diseases, I am thankful to God for blessing me with a good measure of common sense,” she wrote. “I fear that because of your directive, the state of Maryland could unknowingly become a petri dish for the coronavirus to grow and fester even further out of control.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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