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Carroll County elections board preparing for ‘a lot of moving parts,’ counting mail-in and in-person ballots

With Election Day about three weeks away and the Tuesday night deadline to register to vote now passed, Carroll County elections officials are working to prepare for counting ballots — some cast in person, others through the mail — that could reach six digits in total.

Katherine Berry, elections director for the Carroll County Board of Elections, said she’s estimating an 85% voter turnout rate, counting both in-person and mail-in ballots. Carroll has close to 126,300 registered voters, and Berry’s data as of Oct. 12 shows a little over 107,000 expected to cast a ballot.

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“I think that’s a pretty accurate number,” she said of the county’s overall expected turnout rate.

Berry said Carroll is around an 18% turnout (about 22,000 people) for early voting, up from the approximately 19,000 in the 2018 midterm election. She’s expecting that 30% of registered voters, close to 38,000 people, will submit mail-in ballots this year.

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Berry’s data also indicates an estimated 37% of registered voters, more than 46,700 people, will turn out on Election Day, which is Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Those numbers are bound to fluctuate in the coming weeks, but Berry said she hopes Election Day confusion can be alleviated with Carroll County’s early voting centers being used as regular voting centers on Nov. 3.

“The vote center concept is going to help a lot to give people flexibility to go wherever they want to vote,” Berry said.

The election’s canvassing process of aggregating, confirming and counting every ballot cast is open to the public for viewing. It will be held in the Robert Moton Center gymnasium, at 300 S. Center St. in Westminster. The first canvass is set for Saturday, Oct. 17, beginning at 9 a.m.

From that point on, canvassing will be held every day through Oct. 25, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with hour-long breaks for lunch at noon and for dinner at 6 p.m., with the following exceptions: Canvassing on Sunday, Oct. 18, will run from noon to 6 p.m., and no canvassing is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 23.

The schedule is subject to change. Results are embargoed until after the election, though Berry could not be sure of how many counted ballots will have results available that night, or specifically when. Canvassing for ballots that remain to be counted begins again on Nov. 5, two days after Election Day.

It has been a hectic schedule to get ready, Berry said, and there is more work to be done in order to meet everyone’s needs during the voting process.

“The biggest thing that we are trying to focus on is that fact that we are running two simultaneous types of elections,” Berry said. “It takes months to plan for an in-person [election], and it takes months to plan for a mail-in.”

Berry said Maryland faces challenges when trying to handle the amount of mail-in ballots because it doesn’t have the same technology and automation used in other states, such as Colorado, Oregon, or Washington, which are better equipped in that regard.

“We’re manually having to process a lot more work because we’re running a manual mail-in ballot. But then we also have to focus on making sure that our in-person locations are prepared,” Berry said. “It’s really two different types of processes that we’re having to do all at one time. There’s a lot of moving parts here.”

More than 35,800 people in Carroll County had requested mail-in ballots as of Oct. 12, according to Berry’s data. Of those requesting mail-in ballots, 15,679 were Democrats and 12,487 were Republicans, according to Berry’s data. That difference is closer than in several other counties, Berry said.

Early voting will be held from Oct. 26 through Nov. 2, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., at the Westminster Senior and Community Center and the South Carroll Swim Club.

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Election Day hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Carroll County voters can go to any of 13 voting centers that day, a third of the number that would typically be offered. The locations are: Westminster Senior and Community Center, South Carroll Swim Club, North Carroll Middle School, Francis Scott Key High School, Liberty High School, Manchester Valley High School, New Windsor Community Room, Parr’s Ridge Elementary, Pleasant Valley Community Fire Company, Sandymount Elementary, South Carroll High School, Taneytown Elementary School, and Winters Mill High School.

Berry said the elections board is looking forward to a successful process.

“I’m confident. There’s always going to be a hiccup here and there. We try to prepare for absolutely everything,” Berry said. “We’re doing the best we can. We’re responding to emails and phone calls every day. We get probably a hundred phone calls and emails a day. We make every effort to get those responded to in the evenings and the weekends.”

For more information, contact the elections board at 410-386-2080 or ccboe@carrollcountymd.gov.

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