2021 | Government

UPDATED: Board of Elections proposes early voting sites in White Oak, North Potomac, Aspen Hill

At hearing, White Oak supporters continue to make their case; vote expected Monday

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Del. David Moon (D-Takoma Park) testifies during a Montgomery County Board of Elections public hearing on Saturday.

Screenshot via livestream

This story was updated at 5:20 p.m. Sept. 18, 2021, to correct the board president’s first name. It was updated at 12:25 a.m. Sept. 19, 2021, to correct the name of the organization Lynda Wright represented.

The county’s Board of Elections is considering three new early-voting sites for 2022 — in White Oak, North Potomac and Aspen Hill, the board president said Saturday.

Board President Nahid Khozeimeh said she will propose an additional early-voting site at White Oak Community Recreation Center and another at Nancy H. Dacek North Potomac Community Recreation Center.

She added that the board, at its meeting on Monday, would also consider a third additional early-voting center at Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center in Aspen Hill — although the county would need to pay to operate that one.

If those three additional sites are approved by the local and state boards of elections, the county would have 14 early-voting sites in 2022 elections. It currently has 11 sites.

In the past, local and state Board of Election members disagreed on whether to add the White Oak site, and it was never approved. That site has been the focus of a lengthy battle involving County Council members, community advocates, and the county and state election boards.

The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation this year that allows up to 13 early-voting sites, plus a 14th site if the local Board of Elections and governing body agrees, and if the state Board of Elections approves the site. 

On Sept. 14, the County Council and County Executive Marc Elrich sent a letter to the county Board of Elections, urging it to adopt not only the early voting centers in White Oak and North Potomac, but also one in Aspen Hill.

The letter said the three extra sites would alleviate wait times during early-voting periods in 2022 and would help with the county’s racial equity and social justice goals, particularly with minority communities in White Oak and near the Bauer Drive site.

Multiple people who testified on Saturday said they were pleased to hear that White Oak is proposed as an additional site. Previously, state law allowed 11 early-voting sites in the county, with the option for a 12th site. 

Daniel Koroma, a White Oak resident who has continually advocated for a new voting center there, said Saturday that he was delighted to hear Khozeimeh describe the board’s plans.

“I urge you to vote in favor of White Oak,” Koroma said. “Even though you say you’re going to do it, please still do it.”

“If I said I would do it, I will do it,” Khozeimeh responded.

Several other people who testified Saturday continued their call for White Oak to be included as an early-voting site. They said it would help those who don’t have access to a car and would decrease waiting times on early-voting days.

Among those advocates:

  • Del. Lorig Charkoudian (D-Takoma Park)
  • Del. David Moon (D-Takoma Park)
  • Rachael Evans, board member of Friends of White Oak
  • Fatmata Barrie, White Oak resident and candidate for County Council District 5
  • Paul Ellis, an election worker 
  • Lynda Wright, chair of the connection and social action committee for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Theta Omega Omega Chapter

Sandra Zimmet, a member of the Democratic Club of Leisure World, called on the election board to approve the Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center site, along with a larger drop box in Leisure World than was there in the 2020 elections.

The Bauer Drive site was popular during the 2010 and 2012 elections, has ample parking and there is a business shopping center across the street, Zimmet said. 

“I used to vote at Bauer Drive all the time,” Zimmet said. “I could vote, pick up a prescription at CVS and do some grocery shopping at the same time. It was wonderful.”

The Board of Elections meeting is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Monday, and can be joined via a Zoom link.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com