Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Voting Problems in Montgomery County

I arrived at precinct 09-04 in Derwood at 6:45 this morning, to help get-out-the-vote for my friend Saqib Ali. I organized my campaign literature as I shivered in the chilly air (what happened to summer?) and in a short amount of time I was joined by several volunteers for other campaigns. The polls were supposed to open at 7:00, but the early turnout seemed relatively light at our location.

About 7:20 several voters, who had gone inside the school to cast their ballots, came back out with scowls on their faces and told us they weren't able to vote because the electronic voting machines weren't working. One of the election judges then came outside and posted signs directing people to go to a neighboring precinct (09-36) and announced to the campaign volunteers that they were going to close our precinct until the voting machine access cards were delivered (the electronic cards were apparently not packed with the voting equipment, rendering the machines useless).

Numerous voters were turned away. I don't know how many made the trip to the other precinct, how many decided to come back later in the day, or just gave up completely. I pulled out my cell phone and called my candidate's HQ to let them know of the situation. I learned that I was not the first volunteer to call in with problems in District 39; several other precincts were in the same situation.

Approximately 7:45 a car raced into the parking lot, screeched to a halt in front of the building and a rather frazzled looking young women jumped out with a small package. She ran into the building, and after dropping off the missing access cards, hurried back to her car. She told us that she had been flying all over the county making such deliveries.

I understand that several campaigns have filed complaints with the Board of Elections and some are demanding that polling stations remain open until 10:00pm to give people a chance to vote if they were unable to this morning. I know mistakes happen, but disenfranchisement of voters in this manner is completely unacceptable and the board really must do all it can to rectify the situation. Your thoughts?

Other coverage of this morning's voting machine problems: Daily Kos; Maryland Politics Watch; Maryland Moment; MoCoPolitics; Washington Post; WTOP News

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