Solutions Recommended to Address Primary Election Errors
In a four-page letter to the State Board of Elections, two Maryland groups that advocate for voting rights outlined significant problems that happened during the 2022 Gubernatorial Primary, and proposed changes that would prevent the issues from recurring in this fall’s General Election.
The letter from the ACLU of Maryland and Common Cause Maryland thanked the Board for “for maintaining an open line of communication with our organizations and working collaboratively with the Everyone Votes coalition, despite the turmoil of the pandemic and redistricting.”
The letter then listed problems that occurred during this year’s partisan primary elections, including:
- mail-in ballot envelope printing error that reveals voters’ party information in a code visible in the window of the envelope;
- Baltimore City voters put in the wrong districts, and then given the wrong ballots and wrong information about which ballot to vote;
- duplicate ballots sent to almost 1,000 voters;
- incorrect sample ballots sent to tens of thousands of voters;
- voters in Howard County sent ballots for the wrong party; and
- ballot design problems on Ballot Marking Devices, where candidates for the same race were shown on different “pages” of the touchscreen ballot, and the second page just listed the candidates’ name(s) without indication of what office they were running for.
The groups recommended specific changes to prevent each of these issues from happening in the November elections; and it also called for systemic change. “Our call for accountability includes a call to elected officials to fix the culture of shrugging shoulders whenever vendors, local boards, or SBE make mistakes that impact voters,” the letter said.
“It is crucial that comprehensive, layered systems are created to prevent mistakes; including quality assurance procedures, risk management measures, and staff accountability through clear roles and responsibilities for protecting voters from preventable mistakes,” the groups said.
“Our democracy and all eligible voters deserve well-funded, error-free elections. We are concerned about process issues and mistakes that create confusion and mistrust,” said Amy Cruice, Director of the ACLU of Maryland Election Protection Campaign. “Confusion and mistrust lead to voter disenfranchisement, and this will always have a disproportionate impact on Black voters, voters with disabilities, and others who face barriers when trying to vote.”
“If we want voters to trust that their vote will be counted, we can’t keep overlooking issues, especially when they are caused by local boards of election,” said Joanne Antoine, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland. “We recognize that human error is inevitable and that local election officials are overwhelmed, but there are some local boards that continue to make repetitive, reckless mistakes. The State Board of Elections, the General Assembly, and even the incoming administration must make oversight and accountability at the local level a priority – in addition to ensuring they have the adequate staffing and resources needed to run secure and accessible elections.”
The letter requests that “the State Board of Elections and all local boards of elections devise a comprehensive plan with layers of oversight, audits, emergency/contingency planning, logistics, and outreach for the November election. Contingency plans should be robust, anticipating all possible issues that might arise throughout the process. Errors, late openings, and long lines are problems every election year. We know there will always be challenges, but we must do better at anticipating and preventing issues to deliver a smooth, safe, accessible, and equitable election.”