Boggs Raises Early Voting Questions

SNOW HILL – Maryland’s new early voting initiative for this fall’s elections is causing some anxiety for county politicians, who have questions on how vote counting and reporting will work.

County Commissioner Judy Boggs has some doubts about early voting, which will be offered in Maryland for the first time this year.

Boggs wondered how long it would take to count early votes and add them to the totals on the primary and general election days, whether the early voting count would take place on election night or if those votes would be counted with the absentee ballots.

The early voting machines will be canvassed election night, said Dale Godfrey, who handles information technology for county elections.

Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections, said the commissioners would know the results from early voting ballots on election night.

“They’re going to be counted on election day and reported on election night with the election night results,” Goldstein said.

The machines used in early voting will be locked in the local elections office until election day. Votes recorded on those units may be counted beginning at 2 p.m. on election day, to allow time to count the votes and include them in the regular totals, Goldstein said.

Boggs is also concerned about the way votes on a referendum would be counted. In the 2008 election, the slots referendum numbers were not broken out by district for alternative methods of voting, such as absentee ballots, Boggs said.

Goldstein confirmed that this year, county or statewide races or referendums would not be set-up to be broken down by precinct or voting district.

“It’s possible to do it. The plan this year is not to do it,” Goldstein said.

If early voting takes off, the state board would consider making that change, he said.

Worcester County will provide one early voting location this year, in the community room of Gull Creek Retirement Community in Berlin. In 2012, the county will probably offer multiple voting centers. Early voting will be available to all registered voters for both the primary and general elections.

Studies show first-time early voting, in a non-presidential election year, drew about 20 percent of the voters who turned out for that election, Goldstein said.

The early voting period for the primary election will be held Sept. 3-9, except for Sunday, Sept. 5. Early voting for the general election will be available from Oct. 22-28, except on Sunday, Oct. 24.