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Board of Education primary features new district format, mail ballots

For the primary election on June 2, Howard County residents, pictured here at Miller Branch library in Ellicott City in 2019, for the first time will cast a ballot for the Board of Education based on where they live in the county. Residents will also submit their ballots by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For the primary election on June 2, Howard County residents, pictured here at Miller Branch library in Ellicott City in 2019, for the first time will cast a ballot for the Board of Education based on where they live in the county. Residents will also submit their ballots by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.(Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

For the June primary election, Howard County residents for the first time will cast a ballot for the Board of Education based on where they live in the county.

While still a nonpartisan race, the 17 candidates who filed to run for the five open seats on the school board are categorized by the five County Council districts.

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In the 2019 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill changing the way Howard County residents vote for school board members.

For the June 2 primary and beyond, five of the seven school board members will be elected by voters in their respective County Council districts. The remaining two members will be elected at-large, meaning any registered voter can vote for them.

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The primary election was originally scheduled for April 28, but in mid-March, Gov. Larry Hogan pushed it back to June 2 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Less than a month later, Hogan ordered the primary be conducted by mail with limited in-person voting on June 2.

Guy Mickley, director of the Howard County Board of Elections, said most ballots have been sent out to residents. If they have not received a ballot, they can call the elections office at 410-313-5820.

“We can track ballots, so if a voter wants to call the office and have us track their ballot, they can do that,” Mickley said. “We also have no problem sending a ballot out to a voter who hasn’t received one.”

Board of Education Vice Chair Vicky Cutroneo and member Chao Wu will remain on the board, serving as the first two at-large members. In 2018, the two won the most votes, securing each a four-year term. In the 2022 election, the new at-large members will be elected by all county voters. Candidates will have the choice to either run as a district or an at-large candidate.

Three current board members — Christina Delmont-Small, Kirsten Coombs and Jen Mallo — are seeking re-election, while Chair Mavis Ellis and member Sabina Taj are not running for another term. Ellis has sat on the board since 2016, while Taj became a member in 2018. In total, 17 candidates are running for 10 spots in the five-district general election in November.

Howard County county district map
Howard County county district map

Delmont-Small and challenger Matthew Molyett are the only two candidates in District 1, meaning they’ll face off for the seat in November.

Three new candidates — James Cecil, Larry Pretlow and Antonia Barkley Watts — are vying for the two general election spots in District 2. The same is the case in District 3, where Gian P. Alfeo, Tom Heffner and Jolene Mosley face off. On May 14, Alfeo withdrew from the election, but his name will still appear on the ballot.

District 4, which has the largest number of candidates, will set up a match between current school board members Coombs and Mallo, as well as Matt Levine, Daniel J. Margolis and Sezin Palmer.

A former school board member is among four candidates running in District 5. Cindy Vaillancourt, who sat on the board from 2010 to 2018, and Gene Ryan, Saif Rehman and Yun Lu are vying for the two spots out of District 5.

Mickley said voters can either mail in their ballots, as long as they’re postmarked by June 2, or drop them in one of the county-provided drop boxes. Those locations are the elections office, the Bain Center in Columbia and the Meadowbrook Athletic Complex in Ellicott City. The drop box at the elections office is currently open, while the other two will be available beginning May 21. All drop boxes close at 8 p.m. June 2.

The most important thing regarding the vote-by-mail ballots, Mickley said, is for voters to remember to sign the oath on the outside of the envelope.

“If they don’t sign that, their vote won’t be counted,” he said.

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Here is a full list of the 17 Howard school board candidates running in the June 2 primary:

District 1

Christina Delmont-Small, incumbent

Matthew Molyett

District 2

Antonia Barkley Watts

James Cecil

Larry Pretlow

District 3

Gian P. Alfeo (has withdrawn from the race but will still appear on the ballot)

Tom Heffner

Jolene Mosley

District 4

Kirsten Coombs, incumbent

Matt Levine

Jen Mallo, incumbent

Daniel J. Margolis

Sezin Palmer

District 5

Yun Lu

Saif Rehman

Gene Ryan

Cindy Vaillancourt

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