Carroll County is likely to add a new early voting center ahead of the presidential primaries or general election in 2020.
Come August, the county’s Board of Elections will receive an updated count of its active registered voters, which stands at about 123,000 voters, said Katherine Berry, the board’s director. Within the next year, Berry expects the county to hit 125,000 active registered voters, the threshold that would require Carroll to add another early voting center to be in accordance with state law.
“Our registration numbers are growing,” Berry said after the meeting. “[In] the presidential election cycles, we always see an uptick in the number of people that register to vote, as opposed to the amount of people that register to vote during the gubernatorial election cycle.”
And, when a county has to have three or five early voting centers, 80 percent of its registered voters must live within five miles of one of the centers.
This presents a “large challenge” because of Carroll's land mass and its relative lack of public buildings, Berry said in an interview prior to the meeting. With two current early voting centers — one in Westminster, and the other centrally located in South Carroll — Berry and the county’s Board of Elections are eyeing the North Carroll area because its population is “slightly more dense” than Taneytown and New Windsor, and it has public building options.
During its monthly meeting, Wednesday, the board discussed using the Manchester Activities Building or the North Carroll Senior Center as possible locations for the polls.
While using Manchester would be favorable because of its building size and plentiful parking, some of the parking would be on the grass — a point of concern voiced by board member John Woodley that other members shared.
“[If] there’s inclement weather, we will get a tremendous amount of complaints because they’re parking in the grass,” Woodley said. “And I can tell you — the fire department does not want you driving on their grass if it’s wet.”
Griffith Manahan, the board’s president, thought Woodley’s comments were “very worthy” of consideration. He also noted potential issues that could arise with “older people navigating grass.”
But the senior center has its limitations, too. Weighing both options, Berry said Manchester would be “certainly more favorable.”
“I don’t see the parking being anything like what we would see in Westminster,” she said during the meeting. “[For] the North Carroll Senior Center, I have concerns about the parking, the electioneering, the size of the room.”
Woodley suggested other options, such as using North Carroll High School or St. Bartholomew Church.
But since the county plans to sell North Carroll High School, Berry said its stability would have to be taken under consideration.
“We typically don’t like to put early voting centers or polling places in buildings that may be sold in the near future because of having to notify and move mass amounts of people,” Berry said after the meeting.
As for the church, a potential issue could be that early voting may interfere with its Sunday activities, she added, noting the building’s feasibility for early voting hasn’t yet been explored.
The board opted to hold off on voting to choose the new early voting center Wednesday while Berry looks into how the senior center would be able to accommodate candidates’ electioneering, checks on the feasibility of using St. Bartholomew Church and follows up with Manchester about concerns regarding grass parking.
The board has the option to vote on the center the next time it meets, on July 17. Ideally, the board would decide the new center’s location by November, Berry said.