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November 3, 2014

Fair and Balanced Process

Jill King

Tomorrow will be the final installment of this term’s election. After years of volunteering for candidates and participating in the Election Integrity Election voter diagnostics; this year, I will be heading inside the polls to help.


There have been numerous reports and challenges recently, so it is important to understand the issues and gain some recommendations that could be useful when heading to the polls.


It has been reported that there have been numerous instances of machines of switching votes, from Republican to Democrat selections. The Frederick County Election Board has tested machines and come up with a calibration problem, which is ongoing and potentially voter error. It seems that people touch the screens head on and their finger, thumb or fingernail, and it may give a false read due to the impression on both. One suggestion is to turn your finger sideways to vote so it stays aligned in the chosen candidate's name only. If you still have a problem, the simple solution is to report it to a Chief Judge at your polling place.


Chief Judges are representatives from both parties and are there to assist in a number of issues that can arise.


When you enter, your name is taken, then an address, and month and date of birth is asked for. Showing your Identification is not necessary and laws provide that it is the right of others behind you to hear that your information is verified. Since it is a general election the Election Judge will not ask for your party affiliation.


Provisional ballots can be provided for persons who are not registered to vote in the district or districts located at the polling place where they show up, but they will only count toward candidates on the ballot for that voting site. In other words, if you get caught up in traffic in Montgomery County and want to get your vote in for governor and state matters and live in a Frederick County district, your votes will only be counted for the state races. The same goes for individual council districts in Frederick County. The polls won't have every district's provisional ballots provided to them; they will only have the district that is being handled in that particular polling place.


Another development this year is the challenge and law suit to the State of Maryland and the Frederick County Election Board. After receiving information that jury duty was being declined by persons claiming they are not legal citizens, voter rolls were checked. During this search, it is alleged that a portion of these persons were registered voters and had voted in previous elections. Initial demands were that these residents were to be removed before the general election took place, but has since been excused.


This is an ongoing problem with limited checks and balances in the Maryland voting system, allowing for fraud to take place either in the voting process or in the jury duty selection. Both have consequences, but rarely are they compared and enforced – if ever. The revelation is good for improving processes and ensuring fair elections and that jury pools are served with the optimal reach.


In years past, when identifying potential voters from the voter rolls that may need removed or changed due to address corrections, birth dates, or that the voter is deceased, findings in Frederick County have been fairly limited to address corrections. The process in Frederick County is not typically a problem. There are other counties, though, that have refused to check voter rolls and remove people over 120 years old, such as Montgomery County which has a voter on the rolls 187 years old, according to a recent report. Not only are they on the rolls, but have recently voted.


Although both sides of the party disagree about Voter ID, there are some process changes that could make the process increasingly better. Enforcing the rules with fines and penalties, through checks and balances, would be appropriate.


With the state offering online registration and motor-voter through the Motor Vehicle Administration, there is a lot to question when it comes to citizenship and the ability to vote. There are times when information is incomplete that a Provisional Judge will need to ask for an ID to complete the information properly, although it may be a rare occurrence, it is an example of one of the checks in place.


Lastly is the 100-foot rule outside the election booth. Candidates and other groups handing out campaign literature have lines marked that they can't cross. Although this happens from time to time, it is rarely reported. During the Early Elections this was an issue at the Senior Center, as a few reports indicated Apple Ballot advocates were going inside the election lines. After years of helping candidates, there are many people who don't want to be confronted by candidates’ campaign workers and they do everything to avoid being accosted. Surprisingly others come in search of information, some even collectors of such literature to save for the future.


Being a political pundit, it is hard to grasp why people don't know the candidates when they show up at the polls, or isolate themselves from information on the local races. Why are so many signs needed as reminders at polling places and candidates scramble to have someone working at each poll, sign waving or handing out information, when some locations provide little personal contact with the voter?


We are facing an array of changes every day through legislation, and charter government will provide many new changes to how we are represented in Frederick County. For now, respect the fact that we are still able to vote for our representation in a fair manner. Yes, there can be process changes to help resolve some of the issues; changes and updates are always needed, when moving forward. If you have any ideas, make sure to let your state legislators know.


Retraining my brain for the future, conferring with the past...


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