Last year's primary election in Baltimore was marred by polling places that opened late and election judges who weren't familiar with new voting equipment. But state and city elections officials promise that this year's vote, on Tuesday, will be different.
They met Wednesday to go over last-minute details and have shared information on election day do's and don'ts. The University of Baltimore's Schaefer Center for Public Policy is helping to recruit and train judges, and poll workers should be accustomed to touch-screen voting devices.
"Everything is going very smoothly," said state elections chief Linda H. Lamone, whose staff has been working with the city's Board of Elections. "The city has a cadre of very dedicated election judges. I would just encourage everyone to get out and vote."
Polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Tuesday, but as long as registered voters are in line to vote by 8 p.m., they will be accommodated, Lamone said. Last year, some city voters never got a chance to cast ballots in the gubernatorial and federal primary election because of tardy openings and premature closings.
There were other problems too, including no-show judges, a dearth of Republican judges and insufficient training on new voting devices. Officials cleared up those issues in time for the general election in November and say they have kept on track with planning for this week's primary, in which city residents will vote for mayoral and City Council candidates.
"Things are looking really good," said Armstead B.C. Jones Sr., the city elections director and former chairman of the Board of Elections.
Jones said electronic voting devices were delivered to polling places Thursday and that other supplies, including electronic polling books used by workers to check in voters, will be distributed before the end of the weekend. Jones said he has about 2,400 judges, which isn't as many as he would like.
"We could always use some more Republicans," said Jones, noting that most city residents are registered Democrats. State law requires that each polling place have a Democratic and a Republican judge, but Jones said the rule has been relaxed for Baltimore. In some cases, a Republican judge could be "shared" between two polling places, he said.
Lamone said that the state has worked with the city to make sure that each polling place has the right number of voting machines so that long waits can be avoided. She said that Jones, who was appointed director of the Board of Elections last year, has provided solid leadership. Former director Gene M. Raynor resigned in September last year, shortly after the primary election.
Board membership - the governor appoints members - has also changed since last year.
"They want to make this a good election," Lamone said. "I believe it will be a very smooth election."
The Board of Elections' budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 is about $7 million, $5.3 million of which will go to lease new electronic voting machines, a city budget official said. The agency also requested more money to hire judges for three elections. In years when there are fewer elections, the board's budget decreases.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Registered voters in line by 8 p.m. will be permitted to vote.