Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks is criticizing Gov. Larry Hogan’s assertion this week that county officials are attempting to disenfranchise and suppress the vote of Maryland’s minority residents, accusing the governor of mocking the residents of her county for their concerns about COVID-19.
In a statement issued late Wednesday, Alsobrooks said Hogan’s “disingenuous assertion” that the county’s election plan for November was an attempt to stop voters from participating in the election “flies in the face of the facts, and he knows it.”
Voter turnout during the June primary, when voters across the state were mailed a ballot, was the highest Prince George’s County has experienced in 12 years, said Alsobrooks, a Democrat.
“The Governor’s proposal puts politics above the health and safety of Prince Georgians,” she said, a nod to the county having the most coronavirus cases, per capita, in the state. “There is no other way to justify his refusal to mail ballots to Marylanders, or his request that we, in the middle of a pandemic, ask hundreds of thousands of voters to go to crowded polling places.”
Hogan’s spokesman Mike Ricci said the governor appreciates Alsobrooks’ leadership, “but the governor is obviously alarmed by the prospect of closing nearly all of the polling places in one of the nation’s most predominantly African-American counties, risking voter suppression and potential violations of the Voting Rights Act.”
Calling the June 2 primary, the state’s first attempt at voting by mail, an “unmitigated disaster,” Hogan, a Republican, has ordered a traditional election for November to include a full complement of polling places and early voting centers. He has also directed the State Board of Elections to mail an absentee ballot application to all voters across the state in an effort to discourage voters from turning out en masse to vote in person in the midst of the pandemic.
On Monday, Hogan delivered a letter to state Elections Administrator Linda Lamone, chastising her and the state Board of Elections for “two months of delay and deflection” on the implementation of his election plan. Citing a letter from Prince George’s County officials requesting the consolidation of the county’s 229 polling places into 15 vote centers, Hogan argued that the “massive closures” proposed would disparately affect Marylanders of color.
Hogan then quoted former Democratic President Barack Obama, who spoke at U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ recent funeral against people “who are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting.” He also cited the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and argued the closure proposed by Prince George’s County would likely result in a civil rights lawsuit.
Alsobrooks said Hogan’s letter demonstrated “his high disregard for the health and wellbeing” of Prince George’s County.
“Further, the Governor, whose administration’s silence has been deafening throughout the social justice movement taking place across the nation, now attempts to educate me about the painful history of voting as a Black American, accuses Prince George’s of seeking to prevent minorities from voting, referred to Congressman John Lewis, quoted President Barack Obama and invoked the Voting Rights Act,” Alsobrooks said.
Prince George’s County is not alone in its efforts to consolidate polling places in response to Hogan’s November election plan. Nearly a dozen counties across the state have already submitted consolidation plans to the State Board of Elections for consideration, arguing that a shortage of election judges in the midst of the pandemic has forced their hands. The state is currently more than 14,000 judges short for the November election, local election officials reported Wednesday, and judges continue to drop their commitments to participate.
Some of the plans call for dramatic cuts. Howard County officials hope to cut their polling locations by two-thirds. Carroll County’s plan calls for scaling back 36 polling places to 17.
The State Board of Elections delayed considering the consolidation plans when the group met Wednesday. The board is due to reconvene Friday.