Katherine Berry, Carroll County's new election director, was born and raised in the county. She graduated from McDaniel College with a degree in sociology, and has worked at the Carroll County Board of Elections since 2006. In 2012, Berry was elected by her peers across the state to the Board of Directors for the Maryland Association of Election Officials. In 2014, she began to co-chair the Legislative Committee providing verbal and written testimony on election-related bills during the Maryland General Assembly's legislative sessions. The Carroll County Board of Elections recently announced her appointment to the position previously held by Gail Carter, who retired in July 2015.
The Times caught up with Berry to talk about her new role.
Q: How did your selection as director come about?
A: The election director position is a State of Maryland job and was posted on the state's website. I decided to apply for the job after nearly a decade in this field because I believe in the voting process and value being part of conducting elections. The board members conducted interviews and I was selected to fill the position.
Q: What will your responsibilities be?
A: As election director, my first main responsibility is to implement Maryland's new voting system in Carroll County for the 2016 presidential election. I will also oversee all of the activities that take place in our office and manage six permanent staff.
There are various components that take place behind the scenes in order for Election Day to run flawlessly. The Board of Elections office is responsible for processing voter registration applications, absentee ballot requests, voter outreach initiatives, hiring and training approximately 400 election judges for polling places, assigning voters to 35 polling places, coordinating one early voting site, candidate filings and managing testing and deployment of all voting equipment and supplies for Election Day. Typically, when one election is completed, I will begin planning for the next election.
Additionally, I am beginning a major outreach initiative in our community to introduce our new voting system, as well as recruitment of election judges and to inform citizens on how to register to vote or update their registration.
Representatives from our office will be visiting all of the county's libraries throughout October, November and December at various times to talk to citizens about the election process. We will also be available at the WTTR Health and Wellness Expo at TownMall on Oct. 17. Another way for citizens to keep in contact with our office is to follow us on Facebook and Twitter [@CarrollMDVotes]. We are working with the Maryland State Board of Elections to have a significant social media presence for the upcoming election. Follow all of the state's activities at #mdvotes2016.
Our election judge recruiter is working to fill all of the vacancies at our polling places across Carroll County. We have a serious need for election judges in Sykesville and Mount Airy. This is a paid position that is critical to the success of Election Day at the polling places. If you are interested, please contact Jennifer Bartholow at 410-386-2959.
Q: How have past experiences prepared you for this new role?
A: After nearly a decade working at the Carroll County Board of Elections, I have been fortunate enough to learn every part of the voting process. From entering voter registration applications and processing absentee ballot requests to doing maintenance on voting equipment, there was always something different to do. Working in a small office, it is critical that all staff have knowledge of every regulation and law.
For the past four years, my main responsibility has been the recruitment of around 400 election judges, which includes training and payroll. Election Judges are crucial to the success of an election. We rely on these individuals to come to a two- to three-hour training, then to run an entire precinct on Election Day. Our election judges do a fantastic job and it has always been a pleasure working with all of them.
Another important past and continuing experience that I will take with me as I transition to director is the time I have spent in the legislature testifying and listening to our elected officials discuss election bills each session. This is truly where Maryland elections begin and it is important to understand the process to fully grasp why we do what we do.
There are two people who have impacted my career more than anyone and they are the two previous election directors — Patricia Matsko and Gail Carter. They actually hired me the same day I was interviewed in 2006, then I worked side-by-side with them through Pat's retirement and as Gail became election director. Gail recently retired after 28 years working in elections. She was a great role model to help teach me even the most minor detail in elections.
Q: What changes do you hope to implement and how will go about doing so?
A: Election directors are bound by the election laws of Maryland and responsible for implementing any new legislation and following all processes and procedures dictated by the State Board of Elections. However, I do hope that I can increase our community involvement and social media presence to play an active role in engaging our community in the voting process.
Q: What are your biggest challenges to implementing these changes?
A: Elections are always evolving. I look forward to the implementation of this new paper-based voting system. In 2004, the electronic voting system replaced paper-based voting, so it is going to be exciting to see these changes put back in to place in April. Change is always a challenge, but we will do our best to educate our citizens and have a successful election.