Cecil County Council Hires Massey as Manager; Experienced Harford County Employee, Was Fired from Election Board Post
The Cecil County Council has hired James E. Massey, Jr., a former Harford County Council manager and ex-director of that county‚Äôs election board –who was fired after an inquiry into voter registration rolls– as the new Cecil County Council manager.
Massey has more than 35 years experience in local government, including more than two decades with the Harford County library system, four years as manager of the Council, and five years as the director of the Elections Board.
Cecil County Council President Robert Hodge (R-5), said that Massey fully explained the situation with the local elections board to Council members and a majority was satisfied that any snafu was unintentional. Hodge said Massey brought a wealth of government experience to help guide the new Cecil County Council in the transition to charter government.
Massey is a graduate of McDaniel College (formerly Western Maryland College) and holds a master‚Äôs degree in instructional technology from Towson University. He served for many years on the Harford County Board of Elections, whose volunteer members are appointed by the governor, and had decades-long knowledge of election procedures when he was tapped for the staff job of Director of Elections in 2006. He told Cecil Times that he had initiated community outreach to encourage voter registration and participation in the electoral process.
Massey told Cecil Times the problems at the Harford Election Board came as a result of efforts to reach out to members of the military, who constitute a significant segment of local voters due to the presence of the Aberdeen Proving Ground, and are often on deployments and not readily available to respond to postcard mailings used to designate ‚Äúactive‚ÄĚ registered voters.
He said the board compiled email addresses and kept in contact with soldiers to keep them advised of election deadlines and provide related information, and did the same for ‚Äúsnowbirds‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒseniors who lived in Florida for part of the year but retained a legal voting residence in the county.
In 2011, the state Board of Elections in Annapolis audited local voter rolls statewide and questioned the status of some 7,000 Harford voters that the state thought should be listed as ‚Äúinactive‚ÄĚ rather than ‚Äúactive‚ÄĚ on the voter lists, Massey said. In practical terms, inactive status did not automatically disqualify a voter from casting a ballot and if such a voter cast a ballot in the next election they would then be listed on ‚Äėactive‚Äô status. But the distinction mattered due to rules governing the number of early voting centers in the county.
In September 2011, the chair of the county elections board placed Massey and another employee on ‚Äúadministrative leave,‚ÄĚ according to a Baltimore Sun report. Massey said his employment was subsequently terminated. [See Sun report here: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-09-08/news/bs-md-ha-elections-board-investigation-20110908_1_active-voters-linda-h-lamone-active-rolls ]
State elections board officials in Annapolis questioned the designation of certain voters as ‚Äúactive‚Äô when the state board believed they should have been listed as ‚Äúinactive‚ÄĚ because of failure to respond to verification postcards election officials periodically send out to determine if voters have moved. If two mailings cannot be delivered by the post office, voters are usually placed on the ‚Äėinactive‚ÄĚ list.
At issue in Harford County was whether the count of active voters met the 150,000-voter threshold to establish additional early voting center locations for the county‚Äôs primary and general election schedule. State election officials said publically at the time that they believed a tally by the local board showing 151,146 active voters was inaccurate and the count should be slightly less and as a result the county would only have one early voting center.
(By the time of last November‚Äôs general election, Harford County‚Äôs registered voter count was more than 169,000, qualifying for a total of three early voting centers.)
Massey said his staff was able to verify 3,000 ‚Äúactive‚ÄĚ voters and entered them into the computer system. But that triggered a flag with the state Elections Board. State election officials asked the office of the State Prosecutor to investigate the matter, since that office is delegated by state law to conduct any and all inquiries involving election laws. No charges were ever filed; the Prosecutor‚Äôs office has a policy of refusing to comment on any investigations it conducts.
‚ÄúI feel I did the right thing,‚ÄĚ Massey said, in trying to safeguard voting rights especially for military service members. But, he said he felt he was ‚Äúmade an example of‚ÄĚ by local election officials in response to the state board‚Äôs inquiries.
In fact, if the 150,000 vote threshold were crossed, it would have tripled the workload of the local elections board, by having to staff three early voting centers instead of one.
Massey said those issues are in the past and he is looking forward to serving Cecil County citizens and the new County Council.
‚ÄúI think it‚Äôs an exciting time for Cecil County,‚ÄĚ Massey said, adding that he is looking forward to his first day on the job in Elkton on 2/11/13. The transition to charter government will take some getting used to for local elected officials and citizens alike, but Massey said his experience as manager of the Harford County Council will serve him well here.
He said he hopes to assist the Cecil County Council on transitioning to new duties and roles, shifting to a legislative function rather than the combined administrative/legislative responsibilities under the Commissioners form of government.
He also said he looked forward to meeting the county‚Äôs town mayors and learning their concerns and local issues.