Stokes urges elections board head to resign over Baltimore ballots delay; Scott calls for public meeting

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Image courtesy of Maryland Board of Elections website.

Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott has called on the Maryland State Board of Elections to hold an open, public meeting no later than Tuesday to address the status of ballots for Baltimore City voters.

Carl Stokes, a former city council member who represented Baltimore’s 12th District and is now running for council president, has called on Linda Lamone, the administrator of the state elections board, to resign from her position or for Gov. Larry Hogan to fire her immediately.

Stokes said that the issues with sending ballots to voters is “incompetence at the highest level” and that it suppresses voting by city residents.

“Our concern has now turned to dismay as we have watched this process unfold in the last 10 days,” Stokes said. “We tried to be patient as ballots arrived in other jurisdictions but now we have learned that misrepresentations were given on when the ballots were mailed and that the state board failed to send city voter lists to the vendors.”

The push comes after the Maryland State Board of Elections on Sunday said the United States Postal Service began mailing ballots to Baltimore residents on May 15, not May 8 as they previously stated.

The state elections board said it expects ballots to be delivered to voters by May 23.

Scott, who is running for mayor of Baltimore, said the delay in mailing ballots threatens city residents’ right to vote.

“This report is completely unacceptable, endangers the voting rights of the people of Baltimore, and seems to be part of a pattern that began in the 7th District Special Primary when 20,367 ballots were never delivered to Baltimore City residents,” he said.

Scott urged the election board to hold a meeting to answer whether all ballots have been mailed, when they will all be mailed if they have not been already, and how many ballots were mailed out last Thursday and Friday.

On Friday, Scott held a press conference regarding the ballot delay, saying that securing residents’ right to vote was more important to him than who wins the election.

“We cannot disenfranchise people, especially when they are living through one of the most trying times in over a generation,” he said.

In a statement on Sunday, Lamone said she was grateful to Baltimore residents for their patience and their questions about the mail-in voting process. She also thanked the United States Postal Service for working with the board to ensure that all eligible voters can participate in the voting process.

“The Board is deeply committed to ensuring that ballots are delivered promptly and securely to all eligible voters in the City of Baltimore and across Maryland,” she said.

Deputy Administrator Nikki Charlson told The Baltimore Sun the city’s ballots were printed in Minnesota and Florida and sent out through a mail vendor. The vendor has also mailed ballots from a location in Ohio. Election officials told the newspaper that ballots sent from Florida and Ohio have arrived more quickly in the past.

Two months ago, Hogan postponed the state’s primary election, which was originally scheduled for April 28, until June 2 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The special election to fill Maryland’s 7th Congressional District seat was still held on April 28, but was conducted via mail-in ballots and limited in-person voting sites.

The June 2 primary election will be the first full-scale election that Maryland has conducted primarily by mail.

Marcus Dieterle

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