State Roundup: With severe elections judge shortage, officials wrestle over number of polling places

State Roundup: With severe elections judge shortage, officials wrestle over number of polling places

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ELECTIONS BOARD WRESTLES WITH POLLING SITES: Maryland Board of Elections entertained, but did not take action on, an impassioned plea from David Garreis, president of the Maryland Association of Election Officials, who asked the board to change course on a plan to open as many polling places as possible and instead open a limited number of voting centers — places where any county resident can vote, regardless of their precinct. Emily Opilo reports the story for the Sun.

  • With the state having only about 60% of the election judges it needs to open every voting precinct, the Board of Elections has scheduled a Friday vote to ask Hogan (R) to open as few as 90 large voting centers statewide — instead of 1,848 neighborhood precincts, the Post’s Erin Cox reports.
  • Recruiting volunteers to work long hours steering thousands of voters through polling sites during a pandemic has been difficult, Bennett Leckrone reports in Maryland Matters. Many longtime poll workers initially agreed to work the election, but dropped out after consulting with families and friends, Garreis said.
  • Elections board member P.J. Hogan said, “I’m pleading with the board to recommend mailing every registered voter a ballot, and as many election day sites as possible with the staffing that the [local boards] can produce.” He suggested that Maryland’s 282 high schools could be opened as polling sites on election day, Ian Round of Baltimore Brew reports.
  • Harford County’s Board of Elections has slightly more half as many of the judges as it typically needs for an in-person election, officials said Wednesday. Four-hundred judges have decided not to return for the November 2020 presidential election, James Whitlow reports for the Aegis.

OPINION: WILLIS MORE POSITIVE ON MAIL-IN PRIMARY: In a column for his Political Maryland blog, Barry Rascovar writes that John Willis, who served as Secretary of State under Gov. Parris Glendening, takes a far more positive view of Maryland’s mail-in primary “than I did in a couple of columns, and which Gov. Larry Hogan has lambasted repeatedly.” Hogan, Willis maintains, gave state and local election officials precious little time to do an about-face on how to stage the summer primary.

MO CO PUSHES BACK AGAINST HOGAN SCHOOL ORDER: Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles on Wednesday evening issued a new order prohibiting school reopenings, citing a different Maryland law than he used last week, Caitlynn Peetz reports for Bethesda Beat. Gayles issued the same type of order on Friday, prompting Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday to issue his own order overturning Gayles’ decision.

  • The new order may have no greater legal effect than it did the first time, according to former Maryland attorney general Doug Gansler. The governor’s emergency order overrules any county order, Gansler said in an interview with Elizabeth Shwe of Maryland Matters.

TRUMP ADMIN CRITICIZES HOGAN ON NURSING HOMES: The Trump administration called out Gov. Larry Hogan in a harshly worded letter Wednesday for a lack of coronavirus pandemic-related inspections of nursing homes, deeming the state’s effort a “failure,” Meredith Cohn and Pamela Wood of the Sun report. The letter said the state not only missed federally mandated deadlines, but with just over half of the facilities inspected, had the worst record in the country by far. That was jeopardizing the safety of particularly vulnerable seniors.

STATE HALTS HEALTH POLICY CANCELLATIONS: Ryan Dickstein of WMAR-TV reports that Gov. Larry Hogan and Maryland’s Insurance Commissioner, Kathleen A. Birrane, have slapped a 60-day ban on health insurers, preventing them from canceling or refusing to renew plans for policy holders who’ve not yet paid their premiums or deductibles.

COVID-19 UPDATE: There are 92,426 total confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Maryland as of Aug. 5, according to the Sun update on Covid-19, which also offers a county-by-county breakdown.

STATE FAIR CANCELLED: John Lee of WYPR-FM reports: Forget the rides, the games and the food. There will be no Maryland State Fair this year. Fair officials announced Wednesday they have to cancel the 12-day annual event to combat the spread of COVID-19. The fair was to begin Aug. 27 and run through Sept. 7 at the state fairgrounds in Timonium.

JULY CASINO TAKE DOWN SLIGHTLY: Figures released Wednesday by Maryland Lottery and Gaming indicate that after closing down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Maryland casinos opened in July to more than $139 million in gaming revenue, only a slight decrease from the same month a year ago, Hallie Miller of the Sun reports.

RETAILERS SEEK RELIEF FROM PANDEMIC PAIN: Comptroller Peter Franchot urged the governor and lawmakers Wednesday to boost aid to small Maryland businesses struggling in the pandemic and renewed calls for businesses to be given grants of $10,000 each, Lorraine Mirabella of the Sun is reporting.

  • During a roundtable discussion hosted by the Maryland Retailers Association, businesses feeling the economic pinch of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic said a tax credit could help ease their pain, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record.

STATE SET TO HANDLE PURPLE LINE CONSTRUCTION: Maryland transit officials are preparing to manage Purple Line construction if a public-private partnership on the $2 billion project dissolves amid feuds over hundreds of millions in cost overruns, according to a letter sent Wednesday to the project’s subcontractors, Katherine Shaver of the Post is reporting.

HOGAN PRAISES GOVERNORS’ BI-PARTISAN WORK: Gov. Larry Hogan applauded bipartisan cooperation among the nation’s governors in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in his final address as chair of National Governors Association at the group’s virtual summer meeting on Wednesday afternoon, writes Bryan Renbaum for MarylandReporter. “We didn’t let the politics get in the way. And we didn’t hesitate to make the tough decisions,” he said.

  • Hogan said on Wednesday that his year-long stewardship of the NGA was marked by a determined, coordinated push from executives of both parties to battle COVID-19, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. Their efforts — and their willingness to prod federal leaders — saved lives, he said.

FREDERICK ED BOARD MULLS SCHOOL CHANGES: The Frederick County Board of Education planned to discuss which students would be brought in for small, in-school instruction this fall, but not much progress was made related to the topic during their meeting Wednesday, Katryna Perera of the Frederick News Post reports.

  • Perera also reports that the Frederick County Public Schools 2020-2021 academic calendar was adjusted slightly by the Board of Education on Wednesday due to the school system operating virtually for the first semester.

ANNAPOLIS DEMS ALTER REPLACEMENT PROCESS: When Annapolis Alderman Marc Rodriguez leaves his seat on the City Council, Annapolis Democrats say they will be ready to replace him with a process designed to avoid criticisms that followed the selection of a successor to Del. Alice Cain in April, Brook DuBose of the Capital Gazette reports.

FORMER MAYOR BILL BREICHNER, 88, DIES: Hagerstown lost a leader and a lifetime public servant when William “Bill” Breichner died Wednesday morning. He was 88. Breichner was a longtime city employee who went on to serve 12 years as a city councilman before becoming mayor and then returning to the council for a term that ended in 2012, Julie Greene of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports.

About The Author

Cynthia Prairie

Contributing Editor Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor since 1979, when she began working at The Raleigh Times. Since then, she has worked for The Baltimore News American, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Prince George’s Journal and Baltimore County newspapers in the Patuxent Publishing chain, including overseeing The Jeffersonian when it was a two-day a week business publication. Cynthia has won numerous state awards, including the Maryland State Bar Association’s Gavel Award. Besides compiling and editing the daily State Roundup, she runs her own online newspaper, The Chester Telegraph. If you have additional questions or comments contact Cynthia at:

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