Baltimore—Chronic problems with the Baltimore City election process and the profound lack of transparency about them pose a serious risk to voter trust and have further disenfranchised residents in marginalized communities. The lack of clarity about the process for choosing voting locations, delayed delivery of ballots to Baltimore City, voters receiving incorrect ballots, errors on ballots, and lack of transparency about problems with the vote count are a limited list of concerns that grossly undermine public trust in democracy.
Baltimore Votes, Black Girls Vote, the No Boundaries Coalition, OSI-Baltimore, and Roots & Raices call on the State Board of Elections to take immediate actions to address current concerns and vastly improve procedures, transparency, and accountability in the lead up to the November election.
- Accountability in all matters. It must begin at the top, with the resignation or firing of State Board of Elections Administrator Linda Lamone. It must continue with a full, public investigation, with data, of who is responsible for the problems in execution of the election and clear steps taken to address them.
- Transparency in all matters. The eight-hour delay between when Baltimore City voting results were removed from the Board of Elections website on Election Night and when a public explanation was offered is totally unacceptable. To prevent further voter disenfranchisement and erosion of public trust, the State Board of Elections must prioritize quick, accurate dissemination of information at all times. There must also be full transparency and oversight in the recount, certification, audit, and investigation processes.
- A full, public recount of Baltimore City ballots. This should include in-person observation of the recount conducted by community organizations, representatives from campaigns, and the state political parties.
- A full ballot canvassing process must take place in-person with observation by representatives from campaigns, community organizations, and the state political parties. The online remote canvassing process is insufficient at this time, given the major failures of state and local election officials in ensuring a fair and effective election administration process.
And in the lead up to the November General Election:
- Public presentation of a thorough plan to execute the November General Election within 30 days, including:
- The creation of a task force, including members of the general public, to oversee all aspects of the plan and identify potential problems.
- New, local vendors for ballot printing and distribution.
- A new, thorough, and independent process to proof all ballots
- Resources for community-based civic engagement organizations that have a proven track record in educating residents on their voting rights, election policy reform, and have a history of actively engaging marginalized voters to begin to repair the damage done by the State Board of Elections and build trust in the voting process.
Despite the State Board of Elections many failures, the voters of Baltimore City turned out in high numbers for yesterday’s primary election. Challenged by drastically changed voting procedures, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and public turmoil over police killings, the turnout for the 2020 primary is expected to match or exceed turnout for the 2016 primary. Most encouraging, about a third of 2020 primary election voters had not participated in any of the three previous primary elections, affirming data that increasing the ability to voting by mail improves turnout.
We are hopeful that if the State Board of Elections, working with community advocates, takes quick, serious, and ongoing steps to address these concerns, Baltimore City voters will be able to fully take advantage of their right to vote and be able to put their trust in elections going forward. Protecting our democracy and the integrity of the electoral process is our top priority.
Please complete this short survey about your experiences with voting in the June 2nd Maryland Primary. These reflections will contribute to Baltimore Votes’ webinar on election procedures next Thursday, June 11th. They will also be used as the basis for further recommendations that we will make to the State Board of Elections leading up to the November General Election.