Maryland’s presidential primary election endured some glitches at the polls, computer snafus and even printing errors on ballots in Baltimore City.
That caused the state’s presiding leaders to hold a virtual hearing Tuesday to review what exactly transpired and why problems arose.
“The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy and our country’s endurance,” House Speaker Adrienne Jones and state Sen. Bill Ferguson wrote in a letter. “We must have clear answers to what happened and how we can do better in November.”
Although this month’s election was organized primarily by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic, residents still could vote on Election Day at certain voting centers. Some citizens had to vote in person because they didn’t receive a ballot.
A printing error was discovered on ballots in a Baltimore voting district that caused voters to wait in line for several hours and forced election officials to take longer to assess and count the ballots.
The state Board of Elections drew criticism in April when voters received ballots late during the 7th Congressional District’s special election to replace the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland).
The letter from Jones and Ferguson requests testimony from state election administrator Linda Lamone and election board Chair Michael R. Cogan. Local election administrators, specifically Baltimore City Elections Director Armstead Jones, will be invited to testify.
The joint hearing will be conducted by the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs and House Ways and Means committees. Among the expected focal points is the mailing process with the hired vendor, SeaChange of Minnesota, delivery of ballots for hard-to-reach voters with “undeliverable” addresses, and collaboration with local election boards.
The ongoing election challenges and problems had the mild-mannered Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford openly criticizing Lamone during a Board of Public Works meeting, which began within 10 hours after election results from Baltimore didn’t appear on the Board of Elections website due to the ballot error.
Comptroller Peter Franchot, one of the three members on the public works board, went a step further.
“I hesitate to ask for anyone’s resignation, but I think it’s time for some retirements and new leadership,” he said. “There’s something going on over there that is just completely unacceptable.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who called the election board’s problems “unacceptable,” asked for election officials to complete a report by July 3 that will address corrective measures.
“The most basic responsibility of the SBE is ensuring that free and fair elections are conducted accurately,” Hogan said at a press conference last week. “There were obviously significant failures. There are questions that need to be answered.”
Although election officials have received criticism, state law shows the governor appoints the five-member board with Senate approval. The board appoints Lamone’s position, also with consent by the Senate.
Meanwhile, other problems existed before the June 2 primary, such as 90,000 Prince George’s County voters who received mail-in ballot instructions in Spanish.
Most voters such as Walter and Linda Redmond of Forestville eventually received English-language voting instructions a few days later. They filled out their ballots and placed in the mailbox.
“It’s just like filling out an absentee ballot. We did that a few years when we weren’t home,” Linda Redmond said.
Her husband, who said the couple has lived in their home since 1973, added that today’s political climate with President Donald Trump in the White House makes it more of a reason for people to vote in the Nov. 3 general election.
“It is the legal voice that we have to make a decision to what is and what is not going on,” he said. “[Trump] seems to be incapable of telling the truth. Everything that comes out is just a lie. He’s deceptive. Just seems like the kind of leadership is more of an authoritarian, king-like complex. That’s enough of a reason why people need to vote.”