County Council, BOE Hash Out Details For Secure, Transparent Elections

Montgomery County Board of Election members spent two hours Oct. 1 detailing how the upcoming elections will be as safe and transparent as possible. However, they warned members of the county council that the process could be a long one, extending well past election night.

As of Thursday afternoon, 325,998 county residents had applied to vote by mail, and 4,293 people already have voted, noted Jim Shalleck, president of the BOE.

At this rate, he said, “I am expecting maybe half a million” requests to vote by mail. The deadline to request a mail in ballot is Oct. 20. For that ballot to be counted, it must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 13.

There currently are 25 drop boxes spread throughout the county. There will be 50 by election day. Those boxes are monitored around the clock. Votes deposited there are collected twice daily, he said.

For those wishing to vote in person, there will be 39 large voting centers available to all registered voters. Unlike past elections, voters do not have to go to their local precinct.

Everyone voting in person, whether during early voting or on Nov. 3, must be masked. If they are not and refuse to wear one offered by election workers, they will be escorted outside the building and told to fill out their ballot there.

Early voting is set for Oct. 26 to Nov. 2.

Members of the BOE and staff strove to reassure the council that the election will be secure and accurate. All ballots sent out have individual tracking numbers. Therefore, if someone goes to the polls to vote, but the records show they have requested a ballot, they will be given a provisional ballot, which only will be counted if they have not already voted by mail.

“I think there is a lot of anxiety,” said Councilmember Hans Riemer. “We have to have maximum transparency.”

Currently, the county has 3,419 judges available to work during early voting and 2,200 to work on election day.

The council addressed a concern by residents that the drop box at the Bohrer Community Center in Gaithersburg was hard to find. During the primary election, the drop box was in the entrance, but it currently is located near the swimming pool area.

The location was changed for safety reasons so people entering the building aren’t dealing with drive up traffic by those dropping off their ballot, noted Gilberto Zelaya, outreach and public information officer of the county BOE.

Signs are up to alert voters of the location, noted BOE Deputy Director Alysoun McLaughlin.

Zelaya also explained that anyone who wants to observe the voting process first must register with the state BOE and cannot just show up at the polls to observe. This is not a new process.

During voting, social distancing will be enforced. To avoid crowds, the BOE is setting up a text message system where voters will be able to text their zip code to learn the nearest voting centers and their wait time.

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Suzanne Pollak

About Suzanne Pollak

Suzanne is a freelance reporter with Montgomery Community Media. She has over 35 years professional experience writing for newspapers, magazines, non-profit newsletters and the web.

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