As early voting for the 2018 Maryland gubernatorial primary wound to a halt in Carroll County on Thursday night, election volunteers maintained their posts, making sure the last voters were able to cast their ballots.
Just like they’ve done since the polls opened a week ago.
“We have to make sure everything is running properly,” said Bob Anderson, one of the chief election judges at the new early voting station at the South Carroll Swim Club.
And that’s not always as simple as it sounds.
There were 4,975 early ballots cast in Carroll County in the 2018 gubernatorial primary — a 13 percent increase over the 4,393 ballots cast early during the 2014 gubernatorial primary.
After a voter enters the center, a greeter guides them to their first stop: check in. At check-in, the volunteer staff makes sure the voter is registered. Sometimes they are. Other times there are complications.
If it’s not a simple check-in at South Carroll, prospective voters are directed to provisional judges JoAnn Nicholls and Nancy Sussman. They handle “lots of different, really weird scenarios,” Nicholls explained.
“We might have a voter who has a different address than what’s in the poll book,” Nicholls said, pointing to her iPad-like device. “We might even have voters come in who are registered in different counties.”
One lady had three different addresses, said Sussman, a first-time elections volunteer.
But the judges’ goal is to make sure that everybody who shows up votes — no matter how challenging that might be for the judges.
In the three-address situation, they had to dig through the elections manual, Nicholls and Sussman said, picking up an inches-thick booklet. But they figured it out — “we had her vote provisionally and sent her on her way,” they said.
The volunteer staff also has to tally blank ballots and completed ones, checking that sum against the number of ballots they started the day with. “It has to balance out,” Anderson said. If the numbers don’t add up, something’s awry and the volunteers must stay and figure out what’s gone wrong — more work.
Each volunteer’s drive for serving the voters is unique, but many do it because they appreciate the right to vote and want to make others’ voting experiences smooth.
Keysha Adams, another chief judge at South Carroll, said she volunteers because she “wants to give back to my community.”
Anderson, who’s volunteered for 30 years, said he does it because he feels it’s his civic duty.
“I always thought it’s important that people be able to vote … to express who they want in office,” he said. “I never thought of it as a burden [to volunteer].”
Nicholls, meanwhile, had volunteered for candidates before, but she “wanted to see how the operation works from the inside.”
“I actually feel like I’m doing something more useful for the voters, as opposed to just one candidate,” she said. “Like I’m working for the big pie, not just one slice.”
Fewer Carroll County registered voters cast ballots at South Carroll than the Westminster Senior and Community Center — formerly the lone early voting post in the county. Seventy-six percent of early voters in the county cast their ballots in Westminster, while about 1,100 ballots were cast in South Carroll.
The feedback South Carroll volunteers have gotten from the voters they served seems positive, election volunteers said.