Montgomery County delegation unanimously votes to advance early voting site bill
The Montgomery County delegation unanimously voted Friday to advance a bill to mandate a 12th early voting center in the county and establish the location in White Oak.
State Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Burtonsville) and Sen. William Smith (D-Silver Spring) introduced the bill after a protracted battle between the county’s Democratic legislators and Republican Board of Elections over whether the county should have a 12th site at all.
In September, board members voted 3-2 along party lines not to take advantage of a new law that allowed them to establish an optional 12th site.
The state requires the county to provide 11 early voting sites, which are open for eight days before the primary and general elections.
County officials, including Council Member Tom Hucker, appealed the decision to the state’s Board of Elections, which upheld the local board’s decision in October. Luedtke filed the bill quickly after the state issued its decision.
The bill is designated as “emergency legislation,” designed to go into effect almost immediately after passage. If passed, it would make a 12th early voting center in Montgomery County mandatory and establish the location at the White Oak Community Recreation Center.
The legislation will receive its first hearing in the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee, according to delegation chair Del. Marc Korman (D-Bethesda).
Democratic Central Committee moves from Kensington to Rockville
The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee is moving its offices from Kensington to Rockville to save costs, Chairwoman Linda Foley said.
The rent at 3720 Farragut Ave. in Kensington, the previous site, was expected to go up significantly, Foley said. To save money, the committee decided to move to a communal office building at 12320 Parklawn Drive in Rockville.
The new space, which also houses the Jewish Council for the Aging, will save the committee roughly $1,800 a month.
The move will be finalized on Feb. 1, Foley said. It comes after a decline in funding that she attributed to the committee’s decision to move its annual fundraising gala from September 2019 to June 2020.
The gala, which generally raises around $30,000, is a major financial driver for the committee. Rescheduling the event put a “crimp” on fundraising dollars, Foley said, which the committee only recently reversed through a weekend fundraiser with the county’s congressional delegation.
U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Reps. Jamie Raskin, David Trone, and John Sarbanes attended the event. It raised about $50,000, Foley said — enough to get the committee “back to where it should be” in terms of fundraising dollars.
The committee has one part-time administrative employee, but devotes the rest of its funding to maintaining an office space and supporting Democratic candidates at the local, state, and federal level.
The committee wanted to finalize the move before “election season” began in earnest, Foley said. Other parties have struggled with funding in the run-up to the 2020 presidential elections. The Maryland Republican Party went into debt after an unexpectedly expensive fundraiser for Vice President Mike Pence in June, which cost more than it generated in ticket sales.
State delegate cycled over almost every street in Rockville
Amid an ongoing dialogue over pedestrian and cyclist safety, state Del. Julie Palakovich Carr (D-Rockville) rode 324 miles over almost nearly every street in Rockville to test the city’s bicycling infrastructure.
Palakovich Carr — who discussed the project in an opinion piece for the Greater Greater Washington blog — wrote that the 13-month project highlighted the need for bike-friendly infrastructure, including protected bike lanes or shared use paths. It was equally important for the city and county to maintain bike infrastructure, she wrote. That includes proactively inspecting bike paths for safety issues, such as eroding pavement or mud and loose gravel.
Palakovich Carr wrote that she was inspired to start the project in 2016 as a Rockville council member, when the city was updating its bikeways master plan. Montgomery County also published a bicycle master plan in 2018, which calls for a 1,125-mile network of safe paths.
The county’s Planning Department is also developing a pedestrian bicycle plan to “complement” the bicycle master plan and make streets “safer and more accessible,” according to its website.