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On Election Day, 13 voting facilities to open under Carroll County proposal, a third of usual number

The Carroll County Board of Elections is seeking approval from the state to provide 13 voting centers, a third of the facilities that would typically be offered, for Election Day.

The local elections board met via conference call Friday morning to decide on the voting centers. Unlike the typical polling places, the voting centers could be used by any voter in a county. On Monday, Gov. Larry Hogan approved a plan to offer just 360 voting centers across Maryland for the November election despite what he said were “serious concerns” about the proposal.

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Hogan’s decision, issued in a proclamation late Monday, gives the State Board of Elections authority to proceed with the voting center plan as an alternative to opening about 1,600 polling places this fall.

In Carroll County, voting centers will have all Carroll ballots, according to Katherine Berry, Carroll County election director. This does not mean people who are registered in one county can vote in another, she clarified.

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The initial plan was to offer 36 locations to vote in person, but the coronavirus pandemic upended that. In late July, the five-member Carroll elections board unanimously voted to reduce that number to 17. Berry said more locations could not be managed with the resources they have.

“We were only required to have the amount of vote centers as we have high schools plus the early voting centers,” she wrote in an email. “The 17 locations were ‘consolidations’ under the plan the state board had proposed a few weeks ago. Consolidations would have been for voters who were part of specific precincts to go to one specific location.”

With 13 voting centers, voters can go to any location in their county and all 36 ballot styles will be available at each location, according to Berry.

The proposed in-person voting centers, pending approval by the State Board of Elections, are as follows: Francis Scott Key, Liberty, Manchester Valley, Winters Mill, and South Carroll high schools; Parrs Ridge, Sandymount, and Taneytown elementary schools; North Carroll Middle School; Old New Windsor School Community Room; Pleasant Valley Community Fire Company; Westminster Senior and Community Center; and South Carroll Swim Club. The centers would be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Berry hopes the Election Day locations will be finalized at the State Board of Elections’ Aug. 19 meeting.

Voters are also able to cast ballots early or by mail.

Drop boxes will be available about 30 days prior to Election Day for mail-in ballots at: Westminster Senior and Community Center, Board of Elections office, North Carroll Senior and Community Center, South Carroll Swim Club, Liberty High School and Taneytown Police Department station.

Mail-in ballot applications will be mailed by a vendor from the State Board of Elections on Aug. 24, Berry wrote in an email. If a voter completes a mail-in application, they will not be eligible to vote in-person at early voting or on Election Day.

In-person early voting will be available every day at the Westminster senior center and South Carroll Swim Club only from Oct. 26 to Nov. 2 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., according to Berry. The North Carroll senior center was considered for a possible third early voting location, but the board voted not to move forward with it.

“My board revisited this discussion today and because of concerns regarding the days/hours that the state board moved early voting to, the requirement of office staff and election judges to be at all centers in addition to staff processing thousands of mail-in ballots and preparation for election day,” Berry wrote Friday.

In addition, the number of active voters has decreased from 124,700 to 124,300 in the past 30 days, according to Berry. Elections staff learned by sending out mail for the primary election that 800 people had moved and should no longer be registered to vote in Carroll County.

She said they plan to revisit the idea of a third early voting center for the 2022 election cycle.

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While Berry previously expressed a concern over a possible election judge shortage, numbers lately are looking up. About 200 people who have never been election judges before expressed interest, Berry said. She now anticipates having enough election judges as long as the COVID-19 pandemic does not worsen to a point that plans change again.

“Thank you to all of the voters who have contacted us about being an election judge,” Berry wrote. “Now that the State Board of Elections has voted on the dates that early voting will occur and set the standard for locations on election day, we have been able to begin reaching out to our current election judges and will be reaching out soon to the voters who have registered for more information about being an election judge.”

More information about voting in Carroll County can be found online at elections.carrollcountymd.gov.

Baltimore Sun reporters Emily Opilo and Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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