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City Council to investigate irregularities in Baltimore election

Members of the Baltimore City Council formally called Monday for an investigative hearing into the problems that occurred during April's primary election.

In a resolution, council members Mary Pat Clarke and Robert W. Curran said the hearing is a way for the council to "request the City and State to develop a plan of specific steps to ensure a fair and efficient Baltimore City General Election on November 8, 2016."

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"We could all recite what went wrong," Clarke said. "That's not what I want to hear. I want to hear what they're going to do to fix it."

A review by the Maryland State Board of Elections found that about 1,700 ballots cast in Baltimore's primary election were handled improperly.

The board concluded that 1,188 provisional ballots were inappropriately scanned into the vote tally on Election Day — without judges verifying that the voters were eligible — and 555 other provisional ballots were not considered. The review did not change the result of any race.

Additionally, eight data files went missing for about a day after the election, and some polling precincts opened late. Thirty-four released felons — eligible to vote under a new state law — received a city Board of Elections letter before the primary erroneously telling them they might not be able to vote.

"Many polls failed to open on time for the lack of election judges," Clarke and Curran's resolution states. "Lines formed before the 7 a.m. opening, doors remained closed, many voters had to leave and may never have voted. When latearriving judges did appear, the day's experience demonstrated a lack of practical training among many new and even experienced judges, all faced with new paper ballots, new protocols for recording them, and a rash of somehow inaccurate party affiliation records for longtime voters."

Armstead B.C. Jones Sr., the city's elections director, has said the problem was that officials had to count regular and provisional ballots while "having 140,000 people voting." It was the first time in decades city voters used paper ballots.

Jones said some election workers did not show up to work on Election Day, causing officials to scramble.

The council routinely holds hearings when members request them. A date for the hearing has not been set.

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