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Harford voters weigh in on mail-in ballot convenience and concerns as June 2 primary nears

As the June 2 primary approaches, Harford County residents talked about both the benefits and concerns of voter fraud brought up by the significant changes in this year’s primary election because if coronavirus concerns.

Belcamp resident Marcia Bailey, a registered Democrat, drove up to the ballot drop box at Bel Air’s McFaul Center early Thursday afternoon, got out of her car and slipped her ballot into the box.

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The McFaul Center is one of two ballot drop-off sites in Harford County. The other is at the Harford County Board of Elections headquarters, 133 Industry Lane in Forest Hill.

There were several signs posted along MacPhail Road and in the activity center parking lot directing motorists to the drop box. Signs were posted on another box for clothing and shoe donations, warning that people should not put their ballots in there.

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“My preference is to [vote] in person, but I feel more secure with the drop box than I do mailing it in with the U.S. Postal Service,” Bailey said of her ballot.

Voters can also send their ballots via the mail, but they must be postmarked by June 2 to be counted. Harford County elections officials have sent 144,269 mail-in ballots to registered Democrats and Republicans for this primary.

There are 185,159 total registered voters in Harford County, according to a May 18 report on the Board of Elections website.

Bailey said the process of filling out the document was “pretty straightforward,” and she encouraged people to sign the ballot to ensure it is counted.

“I think that’s very important for people to be aware of,” she said of the voters’ signatures.

Marcia Bailey, of Belcamp, puts her completed primary election ballot in a drop box at the McFaul Activities Center in Bel Air on Thursday. Registered Democrats and Republicans can bring their ballots to drop boxes at the McFaul Center or the Harford County Board of Elections headquarters in Forest Hill through Election Day on June 2.
Marcia Bailey, of Belcamp, puts her completed primary election ballot in a drop box at the McFaul Activities Center in Bel Air on Thursday. Registered Democrats and Republicans can bring their ballots to drop boxes at the McFaul Center or the Harford County Board of Elections headquarters in Forest Hill through Election Day on June 2. (David Anderson/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Not everyone was pleased with the changes, however.

Registered Republican Ross Hewitt, of Havre de Grace, said he and his wife plan to vote in person on June 2, citing a lack of trust in mail-in ballots.

“There’s no proof of identity for mail-in ballots,” he said Thursday.

Hewitt, who said he is a former Harford County election judge, cited a number of concerns about potential fraud through mail-in ballots. He noted that, while they are sent to registered voters, there is no guarantee that the intended voter will be the person filling out the ballot.

With in-person voting, elections officials can ask questions to verify the voter’s identity, and the ballot does not leave the voter’s hand until given to a poll worker, Hewitt noted.

He also decried having a limited number of places to vote in person. Hewitt said he understands state and local officials’ concerns about COVID-19, but limiting polling places is “restricting the ability of the American citizen to properly vote the way they want.”

McFaul Activities Center will be the county’s only in-person voting center for the primary election. The site, which will be open from 7 a.m to 8 p.m. on Election Day, is meant for those who need assistance with filling out their ballots, such as people with hearing or visual challenges, or those who cannot get to one of two drop boxes.

Counties have the option of establishing up to four centers for in-person voting, according to a state press release on the Harford County Board of Elections website. Harford elections officials decided to go with one location to ensure the safety of voters and staff, plus the McFaul Center is a known voting site having been used for early voting in past years, and it is centrally located, according to Election Director Cindy Remmey.

Hewitt said he, his wife, and many family members are registered Republicans, but he also has talked with neighbors who are Democrats and plan to vote in person.

“They are going to a polling place because they want to make sure that their vote counts,” he said of his neighbors.

People can track the status of their ballot online at the website, voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/VoterSearch, or they can call the State Board of Elections at 1-800-222-8683.

Harford County voters will be choosing their party’s respective nominees for U.S. president, the District 1 and District 2 representatives to the U.S. House — District 1 incumbent, Republican Rep. Andy Harris, and District 2 incumbent, Democratic Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, both face primary challengers — as well as local delegates to the Democratic and Republican national conventions later this year.

Visit the Harford County Board of Elections website, harfordvotes.info, for more information, or call 410-638-3565.

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