Cecil County Chatter: Election Board Polling Place Snafu; Cecil Business PAC Boosts $
SOME POLLING PLACES WRONG ON SAMPLE BALLOTS; EARLY VOTING BEGINS THURSDAY
About 30 percent of Cecil County voters eligible to cast ballots in the upcoming primary elections received sample ballots that listed the wrong polling place at which to vote, Cecil County Board of Elections officials concede, blaming the snafu on a printer’s error.
But the erroneous local polling place locations will not affect voters who choose to cast their ballots early, since there is only one early voting location: the county administration building on Chesapeake Blvd. in Elkton. Early voting begins on Thursday, 6/12/14, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Debbie Towery, supervising her first election as the new director of the local elections office, said Wednesday that a printer hired to publish the sample ballots had a “computer database glitch” that directed some voters to the wrong polling place. The error affected the sample ballots of Democrats and Republicans equally, Towery said, and there was no pattern to the errors. Some people were directed clear across the county to schools or fire stations many miles from their homes.
“The actual ballots people received are correct,” Towery said, and list the appropriate candidates that will appear on the voter’s official ballot. (Since Cecil County is divided into multiple state election districts, some residents vote for state Senator in District 35 and a Delegate in either District 35A or 35B– while others vote for state legislative candidates in District 36.)
At the printer’s expense, postcards are being mailed out to those who received the erroneous polling place information, directing them to the appropriate place to cast their ballots in person on the June 24 primary election day.
In the past, when some polling places were changed from those that local residents had used for many years, voters who showed up at the wrong place were allowed to cast provisional ballots rather than have to trek to another location—which would pose a hardship especially for elderly or disabled voters. The elections board could then check the voter’s residence and eligibility to vote and the ballot would be counted after Election Day but counted in the final official tally.
Towery said that if voters show up at the wrong polling place due to the sample ballot error, the elections board will allow casting a provisional ballot. “We certainly don’t want to force people to drive clear across the county to another site,” she said.
But some candidates for local office, who spoke to Cecil Times on condition of anonymity, voiced concerns that the snafu will discourage some people from voting. And unless election judges stationed at local polling places are given firm instructions on how to handle the situation, some voters may just give up and walk out in disgust.
“There’s probably going to be a low turnout to begin with,” said one candidate. “This is just one more reason for people to feel their vote doesn’t matter.”
So far, the number of absentee ballots requested for the primaries is low: 75 Republicans and 68 Democrats, according to Towery.
The county’s voter registration rolls now list 26,490 Republicans eligible to vote in that party’s primary while there are 25,698 registered Democrats. The county’s 14,787 unaffiliated voters are not eligible to vote in the partisan primaries that in some cases will determine the ultimate winner—such as the State’s Attorney’s race that will be decided in the GOP primary because there is no Democratic candidate for the general election.
Apart from the sample ballot printing problem, there are three new polling places in Cecil County this year that are correct. The former fire station polling place in North East has been moved to North East Middle School, due to construction at the firehouse. And, due to redistricting, there are two new polling places added to the county’s roster: Bay View Elementary School and Leeds Elementary School.
Voters with questions or concerns about the sample ballot error should call the local elections board at 410-996-5310 to verify their correct polling place.
In-person, early voting at the county administration building will continue every day, including Saturday and Sunday, from Thursday through Tuesday 6/17/14, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.
CECIL BUSINESS LEADERS BOOST PAC WARCHEST
Cecil Business Leaders for Better Government (CBL) jumpstarted its fundraising before the upcoming primaries, with $10,850 in new contributions—on top of its previous bank account balance of $5,702, according to the group’s most recent 5/27/14 report to the state Board of Elections.
The group formed its political action committee (PAC) before the last election and played a role in vetting Cecil County candidates before compiling a list of endorsees that it promoted in ads and mailings. This year, CBL announced its endorsements of local candidates early—even before the candidate filing deadline.
That triggered some complaints that the group was not giving other potential candidates a chance, and it only considered Republicans. CBL has endorsed three County Council candidates: Joyce Bowlsbey in District 2; Dan Schneckenburger in District 3; and George Patchell in District 4—all of whom are Republicans.
Mario Gangemi, CBL’s vice-chairman, told Cecil Times that a key part of its mission is to recruit candidates, and it did so on the Council contests. “I’ve known George Patchell a long time and worked to recruit him to run,” Gangemi said. “I didn’t know, and I didn’t ask, what his party affiliation was,” he added. It was not until the group was ready to announce its endorsements that Patchell told him, “By the way, I’m a Republican.”
The CBL endorsements were touted as the group’s choices for this year’s elections, not just the GOP primary. But in District 4, a strong candidate is unopposed in the Democratic primary: Wayne Tome, a former County Commissioner and mayor of Port Deposit. He is running for the seat currently held by Diana Broomell, a Republican who is seeking re-election.
If Broomell survives the GOP primary, CBL would no doubt be tempted to shift its support to a Democrat, for the first time, in a Tome-Broomell contest in November. But some Tome supporters were miffed that his candidacy was ignored by the group at the outset of the campaign season.
Tome’s party affiliation “absolutely would not be an obstacle” to the CBL group supporting him in a general election against Broomell, Gangemi said. “Wayne’s shown that he is business-friendly,” he added.
In its new finance report, CBL listed some new donors and some familiar names. The largest donations came from members of the Williams family, which has owned an auto dealership in the county for many years. David K. Williams, Sr. of Elkton donated $4,000 while Tracey Williams, of Chesapeake City, donated $2,000. And Barry Williams, of Elkton, contributed $500.
Other major donors on the new report included Brooks Mechanical of Rising Sun, $4,000. (Richie Brooks, either personally or through various businesses, has been a major donor in various political contests this year, especially in the Sheriff’s race.) Gangemi donated $1,000; City Pharmacy contributed $750; and Dian Taylor, of Artesian Resources, donated $500.
The PAC spent $11,017 for mailings supporting its favored candidates. After expenses, the group had $5,605 in its bank account to support future activities.