By Jannette J. Witmyer,
Special to the AFRO

As the date for in-person voting in the Maryland Primary Election slated for July 19 rapidly approaches, area election officials are working frantically to secure additional election judges to accommodate the needs of voters who choose to cast ballots in person, instead of using the mail-in or drop-box options. 

Less than a month before the crucial date, Baltimore City is facing an acute shortage of 1,000 vacancies, caused by a myriad of reasons that exist throughout the state.

Speaking about the issues faced by Baltimore City, Election Director Armstead B.C. Jones, Sr. places the pandemic at the top of the list. He says that the Board of Elections (BOE) saw the problem coming and even attempted to ward it off.

“This pandemic is playing a part. And, of course, over the years, most of our judges are seniors and retired people. A lot of them still haven’t gotten to the point where they are going out,” said Armstead. “Right now, I know we’re about 1,000 judges short. We’ve used as many as 3,000. We have about 1,100 now, a month away.”

Armistead is not shocked by the low number of election judges.

“This is something we realized months ago would happen. We tried to talk to the folks in Annapolis, Md. to do vote center so that we could cover all of it,” he said, with an exasperated sigh. “We’re still recruiting democrats, independents, republicans, and nonaffiliated registered voters to serve as election judges.” 

Jones lamented that with voting scheduled during prime vacation season, the timing of the election only further exacerbates the problem. “Early voting starts three days after the fourth of July and goes through July 14. Many people have plans for vacation and we got a lot of those responses.”

Despite these hindrances, his office is working hard to counter the issues by making the process of becoming a judge easier. 

Information about becoming an election judge is readily available online, along with the ability to download, complete, and submit the application. A portion of the mandatory training can be accomplished online, as well. Additionally, the compensation election judges receive has been increased to $20.00 for each training session (must work both the primary and the general elections); $275.00 for chief judges; and $200.00 for check-in, provisional ballot, and voting area judges. 

It’s fair to say that during these times of inflated prices, the increased monetary incentive being offered could easily move a person to sign up to serve as an election judge. More importantly, at a time when the validity of the election process has been vigorously and violently challenged. Now more than ever, it is imperative that there is equal representation ensuring that the election process is administered fairly and in accordance with the law. That should be enough to fill the posts with willing and eligible individuals.

Baltimore City and Baltimore County are actively trying to fill vacant slots and scheduling training sessions. If interested in becoming an election judge in Baltimore City and/or the surrounding counties, follow the links listed below for additional information.

Baltimore City Board of Elections – https://boe.baltimorecity.gov/boe-election-judges

Anne Arundel County Board of Elections – https://www.aacounty.org/boards-and-commissions/board-of-elections/election-judges/

Baltimore County Board of Elections  https://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/search/results.html?q=election%20judge

Harford County Board of Elections  https://harfordvotes.gov/?page_id=2778

Howard County Board of Elections  https://www.howardcountymd.gov/board-elections/election-judges

Montgomery County Board of Elections  https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/Elections/ElectionJudge/Overview.html

Prince George’s County Board of Elections  https://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/959/Election-Judge

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Jannette J. Witmyer

Special to the AFRO