Local officials call for ballot protection

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Some Maryland elected officials wrote to Congress two days after the election, demanding that the House pass legislation surrounding voter suppression, specifically to prohibit states from invalidating ballots postmarked by Election Day. (Courtesy Photo)

By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
mgray@afro.com

A diverse group of progressive leaders from Maryland suburbs surrounding Washington, D.C. took the initiative to demand Congress pass legislation that would prohibit states from invalidating ballots that were postmarked by Election Day in the future. More than two full days after the voting concluded, there were five states who still hadn’t declared victory for either President Donald J. Trump and former Vice President Joseph Biden as the incumbent made false accusations of “engineering the outcome” of the race while mail-in ballots were still being counted in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and North Carolina.  

Greenbelt Mayor Colin Byrd led a group of suburban elected leaders in drafting a letter to bi-partisan Congressional leadership and issuing a charge to make changes at the legislative branch of government to guarantee all votes be counted without prejudice in all future elections. 

“Counting every vote shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” Byrd told the AFRO.  “There would have been good political policy 6-12 months ago and it will be good policy a year from now.”  

Approximately 30 elected officials including Prince George’s County Executive Angela N. Alsobrooks and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot added their names to the letter that was addressed specifically to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“We are deeply concerned by the president’s repeated and varied calls for states not to count every vote, and we are deeply concerned about related actions taken by several states,” Byrd wrote. “The President of the United States has deliberately undermined the operations and sustainability of the United States Postal Service and impeded its capacity to process mail, including ballots, in a timely manner.”

The contingent of Maryland politicians includes four state delegates, four state senators, seven mayors, three Prince George’s County Council members, and five representatives from the County’s Board of Education.  They addressed the Congressional leaders as one voice.   

Byrd’s letter lays out the plans for a series of reforms to the electoral process. He cited examples in several states where voter turnout was suppressed by creating rules that invalidate mail in ballots that arrive after Election Day even though they were postmarked by Nov. 3. There are 28 states that don’t allow postmarked ballots to arrive after the day ballots were officially cast.  There were more votes cast during this election than ever before and with concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, a record number of voters nationwide chose the mail-in option and this organic coalition wants to protect the option moving forward.

“It is clear that we need stronger federal protections for American voters so that every vote counts and so that states can no longer so blatantly suppress votes,” Byrd continued. 

The tabulating of election returns, while the presidential race was at the top of the news cycle, served for the right moment for the local lawmakers to address their concerns about the process of counting ballots and for all forms of voting to be recognized as valid to the nation’s legislative leadership.

“There’s an invisible shot clock ticking on bringing the importance to protect everyone’s right to have their legal vote counted,” Byrd said.  “I see voter suppression as an affront to the legacy of great leaders like Congressman John Lewis.  We must fight for what he stood for.”