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Montgomery Co. Democrats Urge Additional Early Voting Site in White Oak

Democrats in Montgomery County say partisanship is getting in the way of an expansion of early voting there next year, and are asking the governor or the state Board of Elections to intervene.

In particular, the Montgomery County Council, as well as the county executive and state lawmakers from the area, want to see a 12th early voting precinct added in the White Oak area of Silver Spring next year.

But the Montgomery County Board of Elections has rejected the request, at least at this point.

“Unfortunately, in my district in particular, in Burtonsville and in Silver Spring … some people wait in line for up to two hours to vote,” said Montgomery County Councilman Tom Hucker (D).

He also represents the White Oak area, which he said is “a heavily African-American, heavily African immigrant community, and also a community that’s heavily dependent upon transit. So people need to take advantage of that early voting site because it’s very hard for them often to get to Burtonsville or Silver Spring. It can be 41 minutes on a bus to get to Burtonsville.”

Hucker said about 27% of Montgomery County residents voted early last year. But he said the election board, which has a 3-2 Republican majority appointed by Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., is disrespectful of the minority communities living in east county and trying to suppress their votes.

He cited a 2015 incident when the board secretly met with county Republicans to close the Burtonsville early voting center, which was also the county’s busiest site. The state Board of Elections ended up overruling the county board.

“They went way outside their swim lane by suggesting it wasn’t worth the money,” Hucker said. “It’s not their job to put a price on people’s voting rights, and it’s not their role to approve the county or state budget.”

“It’s a very small cost compared to our $5.5 billion budget,” Hucker added.

He is asking Hogan to intervene. “This is a board of elections that has a pattern of voter suppression,” Hucker said. “They are once again up to their old games.”

State House Majority Leader Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery) said he would file emergency legislation in the upcoming General Assembly session requiring the county to open a 12th early voting site, though the bill would not specify where to put it.

“The right to vote is fundamental, and wait times for voting in east county are far too long,” Luedtke said on Twitter Monday. “I’m drafting an emergency bill that would require Montgomery County to have a 12th early voting site for the 2020 elections. If the Board of Elections won’t do it, we’ll make them.”

As part of Maryland Matters’ content sharing agreement with WTOP, we feature this article from Joe Doman. Click here for the WTOP News website.

Maryland Matters’ Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.

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