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Calls for new leadership as primary election vote counting continues

Posted at 5:52 PM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-05 07:10:35-04

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — It's been days since Maryland's Presidential Primary election and we aren't much closer to learning the winners of the Baltimore City races. Right now, the focus is on correcting a printing issue that rendered the District One Democrat ballots for city council member uncountable.

Thursday, Baltimore City Board of Elections employees and election judges worked to manually duplicate the impacted ballots.

"One person calls out who the vote is for. The other person bubbles in the good ballot and then once that’s done, the process is give that ballot to the other person to verify the correct markings have been made," said Baltimore City Election Director Armstead Jones.

And then it gets scanned through. Both candidates were allowed to have up to three representatives watch the process and it was also livestreamed.

"The process here has been very thorough and transparent. The staff is working hard," said Lauren Lamb, Zeke Cohen's campaign manager.

"Going forward, I would hope that this would never happen to another candidate, another voter. We should all be able to cast our votes and have full faith that our vote being counted," said candidate Paris Bienert.

It’s one of many issues voting rights activists are citing when calling for a change and a thorough investigation. There were very long lines on election day and delayed or missing mail-in ballots.

"We need a full and transparent evaluation and hearings on both the printing errors and mailing delays in our election, especially as we move forward to likely an election in November that has to be run remotely as well," said Emily Scarr, Director of Maryland PIRG.

Scarr would like to see more outreach to address the long lines and unusally high turnout on election day.

"Moving forward, the state should do more aggressive outreach to ensure everyone’s voter registration is up to date with their accurate address. I think a lot of the folks who had to vote in person were because either their address was out of date or because their ballot was delayed," said Scarr.

"The voters that are most hardest hit by this disaster are black and brown voters and the state has to be accountable for this," said Baltimore NAACP President Reverend Kobi Little.

Little is calling for all the senior leadership with the State Board of Elections to step down, as well as Baltimore City Election Director Armstead Jones.

"At this point, the State Board of Elections needs to prove to us that this is only massive incompetence and it’s not corruption. There is a significant problem when for two election cycles, in 2018 and now in 2020, there are voter registration and voting issues connected to vendors... How is it that for 2018 and 2020, the state has procured vendors that have completely botched the assignment they were given? Where is the due diligence?," said Little.

It comes a day after Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford called for the state board administrator to step down, and Comptroller Peter Franchot echoed that call, adding Jones to that list.

"The ballot issue that's been raised, I did not procure the ballots. I did not communicate with a vendor to make the ballots so as far as I’m concerned, I’ve done what I was supposed to do and I'm here today making whatever necessary adjustments, cleaning up the mess that has been made," said Jones.

While there needs to be changes, Scarr points out that there are a few positives that came out of this election.

"We are on pace to have an incredibly high turnout which is, for me, a silver lining and makes me very optimistic that our November elections can go off successfully," said Scarr. "Folks should be proud of Maryland for attempting to shift the election to vote by mail as we’ve seen states across the country fail to do so in both putting public health at risk as well as their elections."

The Baltimore City Board of Elections will move on to counting the remaining mail-in ballots once they are done with all of the D1 race.