Saturday, 10 October 2015 00:00

Montgomery council grills election board head on voting site shifts

Written by Bill Turque | The Washington Post
The early voting line was almost two blocks long in downtown Silver Spring, Md., 30 minutes before the close on Nov. 2, 2012 The early voting line was almost two blocks long in downtown Silver Spring, Md., 30 minutes before the close on Nov. 2, 2012 . (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Montgomery County Board of Elections President Jim Shalleck acknowledged Thursday that the Republican-controlled panel’s decision to move two early voting sites reduced the total number of registered voters living within five miles of an early balloting location.

Maryland regulations require that at least 80 percent of the county’s registered voters live within a five-mile radius of an early voting site.

The board’s 3-to-2 vote on Sept. 21 angered members of the all-Democratic Montgomery County Council, who accused Shalleck, appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), of manipulating location of the sites for partisan advantage. The council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee grilled him on Thursday for 90 minutes.

Under state law, the party controlling the governor’s office holds the majority on local election boards.

Shalleck also told the committee under questioning that he’d consulted by phone with Montgomery County Republican Chairman Michael Higgs about the change of sites. Hogan has appointed Higgs to the Maryland Public Service Commission.

Shalleck, an attorney and former New York prosecutor who was the Republican candidate for Montgomery County Executive in 2014, flatly denied any attempt at voter suppression.“There was absolutely, and I repeat this, absolutely no intent to suppress anybody’s vote,” he said.

He also angrily rejected the suggestion that the board’s decision was made with guidance from the governor, who is being treated for cancer.

“The last thing I’m sure Larry Hogan was thinking about was early voting sites in Montgomery County. We should be praying for the governor, not criticizing him,” Shalleck said.

The board voted to move two of the county’s nine early voting sites. Early balloting at the Marilyn Praisner Community Center in Burtonsville, which serves high-poverty East County communities along U.S. 29, was shifted to the Longwood Community Recreation Center in Brookeville, 13 miles to the northwest.

Link to original article from The Washington Post

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