Election boards preps for high voter turnouts

Local,Josh Kowalkowski
Election boards statewide are using new strategies as they expect voter turnout to exceed 80 percent in the November election when ballots will be cast for a new president and slots.

Many polling stations, including those in Baltimore City and Howard County, will have greeters distributing specimen ballots to voters so they can review them as they stand in line before they vote, according to the Maryland Association of Election Officials.

“This is one of the biggest things we’re doing this year,” said Betty Nordaas, election director for the Howard County Board of Elections.

“Anything like this to help voters be more prepared will be helpful.”

Typically, sample ballots only would be mailed out, but several officials said they want people to be as informed as possible and don’t want to risk residents not opening them.

These specimen ballots will be especially useful to Baltimore City voters, who have 18 questions to answer, the most in Maryland, said Armstead B.C. Jones Sr., election director for Baltimore City’s Board of Elections.

To accommodate the city’s anticipated high voter turnout of around 75 percent, the board is seeking 2,500 to 2,600 election judges, but is pushing for close to 3,000, he said.

“One of the main things I’m concerned about in Baltimore City are the long lines,” he said.

“These greeting election judges will also help pre-check people in so they know they’re in the right place.”

So far, the city is about halfway through election-judge training with about 1,200 people.

“The training is intensive,” Jones said.  “These are one-time jobs that can make or break an election.”

Howard also increased its number of election judges to 1,133, up from 15 during the previous election.

“We’ve fully recruited all our judges, but we always need alternatives because of cancellations,” Nordaas said.

Howard has typically seen about an 80 percent to 82 percent turnout during presidential election years, but this year’s numbers are expected to be higher, she said.

Anne Arundel is expecting an 85 percent voter turnout, which would be about 8 percent higher than the 2004 November election.

“This election, we’ll probably have a lot of voters who haven’t voted in a while,” said Joe Torre, election director for the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections.

Unlike Howard and Baltimore City, Anne Arundel will post a specimen ballot on the wall, so voters aren’t confused, he said.
Local boards also are working with the state Board of Elections to acquire more voting machines and electronic poll books.
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