About 90% of ballots have been delivered in Montgomery County

About 90% of ballots have been delivered in Montgomery County

County Council wants State Board of Elections to address ballot problems

| Published:

Montgomery County Board of Elections staff members at the Germantown Community Recreation Center, one of seven ballot dropoff locations in Montgomery County.

Photo courtesy of Gilberto Zelaya

About 90% of ballots for the June 2 primary have been delivered in Montgomery County as of Thursday, a Maryland State Board of Elections official said.

The estimate is based on data from the U.S. Postal Service, Nikki Charlson, the deputy administrator for the Board of Elections, told Bethesda Beat in an interview Thursday.

The remaining estimated 10% of ballots are in the mail and will be delivered by Saturday, she said.

Maryland’s primary was originally scheduled for April 28, but it was moved to June 2 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is being conducted mostly by mail, with voters automatically receiving ballots in the mail.

All ballots must be postmarked by June 2 to be counted.

Voting in person is allowed at four locations in Montgomery County on June 2 for people who can’t vote by mail.

There have been multiple problems with the process of mailing ballots. Ballots were supposed to be mailed to Baltimore City voters earlier this month, but the ballots didn’t get mailed until last Friday, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Additionally, about 90,000 voters received instructions and information about ballot dropoff locations in a language other than their preferred one, Charlson said.

The Montgomery County Council on Wednesday sent a letter to the State Board of Elections after hearing from Montgomery County residents who had not received their ballots, as well as the problems reported in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County.

Council members requested that the board hold an emergency meeting to address the problems.

“…Particularly now, when our residents are seeing national media coverage of widespread voter suppression in other states and surveys are showing a high degree of anxiety about election administration and protection, seeing evidence of these failures in Maryland significantly undermines public confidence that the 2020 Primary and General Elections will be administered securely and effectively,” the letter stated.

Council members also said they were worried that the state contracted with a vendor that had a “poor record” to distribute ballots. In their letter, they raised a number of questions about the integrity of the election.

Charlson said Thursday that she had read the council’s letter and was drafting a response to it.

She said there weren’t any ballots in Montgomery County sent with instructions in the wrong language.

But the ballots in Montgomery County weren’t on time. She said ballots were to be delivered on a staggered basis, with different jurisdictions receiving ballots at different times. Ballots were supposed to be mailed to Montgomery County voters before Baltimore City voters, she said.

Charlson said she didn’t know the specific day ballots in Montgomery County were supposed to be mailed.

“The plan was not for thousands of ballots to be delivered this week. That was not the plan, but that is what’s happening,” she said.

The delays are related to the vendor, Minnesota-based SeaChange Print Innovations, the state uses to mail ballots, Charlson said.

The state contracted with Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software during the 2018 elections, and SeaChange was a subcontractor, she said. After that election, the contract was transferred to SeaChange.

Charlson said Thursday that the board held an emergency meeting on Wednesday and approved two additional voting locations in Baltimore City.

Charlson said that after the election, the board will perform a “full accounting of the process,” but she didn’t give details.

“There are various things we can do. We’ll establish where we need to focus after the election. We’re just focusing right now on making sure people can vote,” she said.

Gilberto Zelaya, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said on Thursday that he knows of ballots being delivered in the county as early as last week, although he didn’t know when they were first mailed.

“The vast majority of voters have received their ballots. You have some individuals [who might be] waiting until this Saturday,” he said.

Zelaya said that as of Thursday, 671,633 ballots had been sent and 9,700 had been returned.

If voters don’t get their ballot by Saturday, Zelaya said, they can request a second ballot from the county by calling 240-777-8550 or sending an email to absentee@montgomerycountymd.gov.

He also encouraged residents to text the word “Check” to 77788, which will direct them to the state’s voter lookup web page. Voters can enter their name, ZIP code and date of birth to make sure their registration information is updated.

Those who want to vote in person from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 2 can visit one of four locations in Montgomery County:
• Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring
• Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center, 14906 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville
• Activity Center at Bohrer Park, 506 S. Frederick Ave., Gaithersburg
• Germantown Community Recreation Center, 18905 Kingsview Road, Germantown

For more information on the candidates running in Montgomery County, visit Bethesda Beat’s 2020 primary voters guide.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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