Baltimore’s spending board approved a $633,000 plan Wednesday to train thousands of election judges ahead of February’s special primary for the late Rep. Elijah Cummings’ 7th Congressional District seat.
The University of Baltimore Schaefer Center for Public Policy will teach roughly 3,000 people how to staff polling places during the 2020 elections, according to city documents. The contract begins Jan. 1, giving the university just a few weeks to assure judges are ready for the special primary Feb. 4.
“It’s important that the individuals who serve as judges are properly trained and get the right answers to their questions, so on election day, they are informed enough to help the public come in and exercise their right to vote,” said Armstead B.C. Jones Sr., the city elections board director
The university training — some version of which has been provided in the city for more than a decade — will be updated to include information on a new state law that provides for same-day voter registration at the polls.
“That’s going to be new to many of the election judges,” said John T. Willis, executive in residence at the University of Baltimore’s School of Public and International Affairs.
And, because the special primary is scheduled during the dead of winter, Willis said, judges also will be trained on how to deal with the kinds of problems weather may cause: snow and ice storms can lead to extended polling hours, as well as difficulties with judges getting themselves to voting sites.
Election judge no-shows have caused problems in the past. During the April 2016 primary, hundreds of election judges failed to turn up, causing confusion and disorganization at the polls.
Jones said the city hopes to have a couple of hundred substitute judges — in addition to more than 2,000 other judges — prepared to jump in this February.
“We’re training as many people who sign up,” he said.