After almost four weeks of blistering attacks from Democratic Montgomery County leaders, the Republican-led county Board of Elections (BOE) on Monday agreed to restore the Chevy Chase early voting site for the 2016 election cycle.
The decision, which came by a 5-0 vote Monday afternoon in Gaithersburg, was influenced in part by the State Board of Elections’ inability last week to approve the nine early voting sites recommended by the county BOE.
The BOE also appeared to be influenced by County Executive Ike Leggett, who in a letter to the BOE delivered Friday promised to support state legislation that could add an additional early voting site to accommodate Potomac. Leggett also promised to provide county funding for that Potomac site if the BOE agreed to restore the Chevy Chase site.
“If you agree to this recommendation, I am committing my active support both for the legislation and the resources you will need to operate the additional site,” Leggett wrote in the letter.
BOE President Jim Shalleck, a Republican who ran against Leggett for county executive in 2014 and who was appointed to the position earlier this year by Gov. Larry Hogan, repeatedly pointed to Leggett’s letter as a way forward and praised Leggett’s proposal.
“Publically, I want to thank Ike for joining this effort,” Shalleck said. “I hope this will put us in the right direction.”
The BOE's initial decision, made by a 3-2 vote along party lines on Sept. 21, quickly drew outrage from the all-Democratic County Council, all-Democratic delegation to the Maryland General Assembly and organizations such as the NAACP and Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC).
Shalleck and the two other Republican voting members of the BOE voted to replace the Chevy Chase site with the Potomac Community Recreation Center, and to replace the Burtonsville site with a recreation center in Brookeville—just north of Olney—to give different locations a chance to have early voting.
Last Wednesday, the BOE agreed to restore the Burtonsville site and to drop the idea of the Brookeville site. But it also voted along party lines to keep the Potomac site and not to restore the Chevy Chase site.
The State Board of Elections considered that proposal at its Thursday meeting. Requiring a supermajority of four votes for approval, the county BOE recommendation garnered only three votes for approval from the state board. That sent the matter back to the county BOE, which must deliver its new recommendation for early voting sites to the state by Wednesday.
The nine sites are set to be approved Friday in Annapolis.
Democratic state lawmakers, including District 18 State Sen. Rich Madaleno and District 14 Del. Eric Luedtke, had previously proposed emergency legislation in the next legislative session to add two early voting sites in order to put sites back in Burtonsville and Chevy Chase.
Darrell Anderson, chairman of the MCDCC, told the BOE at its Monday meeting that it's his understanding state legislators would now introduce emergency legislation aimed at creating a tenth early voting site. It's unclear if that legislation would create the extra early voting site specifically in Potomac, or whether the BOE would have to convene again to make that recommendation for Potomac.
Republicans were granted a majority on the BOE earlier this year because Hogan is a Republican and the party of the sitting governor must have a majority on local election boards. Hogan nominated Shalleck to be president of the BOE.