A voter marks her ballot. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)
Baltimore is one step closer to re-certifying the Democratic and Republican primary elections held on April 28. The Maryland State Board of Elections released results of their review of the local election tally this week and according to the report, 1188 provisional ballots were incorrectly scanned into vote totals without verification that the voters were eligible and another 465 provisional ballots were not counted at all.
The State Board of Elections de-certified city primary results May 12th and conducted a precinct by-precinct review of vote totals. The review uncovered widespread voter irregularities across every city council district. The report issued on May 23 stated that only 10% of Baltimore’s 296 precincts reported “no discrepancies” in vote totals.
State Board of Election officials told the AFRO made the point that vote totals are not in question. The problem in a number of districts across the city was with voter eligibility. Based on the data they reviewed, it was impossible in some districts to track whether or not provisional voters were actually eligible to vote. The State Board report revealed that voting data in more than 60 precincts across the city cannot be reconciled due to a variety of reasons problems ranging from missing documents to lack of accurate documentation.
Baltimore City Board of Elections Officials will now count the additional 465 provisional ballots and recertify the election. City Board of Elections Director Armstead Jones said his team will probably be ready to issue new totals by the end of the week.
In addition to a close Mayor’s race, with slightly more than 2,500 votes separating Democratic frontrunner Catherine Pugh and Sheila Dixon, several city council races were closely decided in the April 28 election. The closest contest was between City Council District 10 Democratic Primary winner Edward Reisinger, current City Council Vice Chairman, who defeated challenger Charlie Metz by less than 100 votes.
Voters Organized for the Integrity of City Elections (VOICE) is one of organizations that spoke out about irregularities on Election Day and closely monitored the State’s election review process. VOICE spokesman Hassan Giordano believes the problem won’t be resolved by a simple recount of provisional ballots. “You can’t clear it up when you don’t know the problem,” he said. “Jones continues denying there is a problem while the State says it’s so screwed up that they can’t get to the bottom of many of the issues throughout some of these precincts” emphasized Giordano.
VOICE is calling on Governor Hogan to appoint an independent commission to produce a best practices method to resolve the problems still lingering before the November General election, according to Giordano.
Marvin L. ‘Doc’ Cheatham, former President of the Baltimore Board of Elections believes Armstead Jones and the Board of Elections should be held accountable for the widespread errors in this year’s primary process. “When you have election judges putting provisional ballots in the machine and allowing the machine to count and read those ballots, that’s a training error,” he said. “You can put responsibility on the election judges at the polling places, but training election judges is the responsibility of the Director of the Election Board and the five-member board. The State Board indicated that there were major management problems in at least two areas, recruitment and training of election judges,” Cheatham said.
Cheatham echoed the concerns raised by other community election watchers that more needs to be done to resolve problems in the election process before the November general elections. “The next election is only six months away. The City Election Board has to deal with this; the State Board has oversight. If you keep doing the same thing with the same people in charge you can expect the same problems,” Cheathem said.
State Board of Election Official Donna Duncan emphasized that Maryland will work hand-in-hand with local officials to ensure a smooth process for the November General Election. “The State Board of Elections in collaboration with the Baltimore City election officials will be reviewing and analyzing how the process can be improved and implementing many strategies to make the general election as wonderful as we have come to expect of Maryland elections,” Duncan said.