Ninth early voting site likely for Montgomery -- Gazette.Net







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The Montgomery County Board of Elections is likely to establish four new early voting centers for Montgomery County rather than three at a meeting next week.

The board is scheduled to meet Oct. 21 to determine the sites for the additional early voting centers allowed by a new state law. It is expected to select the maximum number of sites after a Montgomery County Council committee expressed support for the extra location.

Montgomery’s five early voting centers all were among the most heavily used in the state in the 2012 election. The Maryland General Assembly passed a bill this year allowing each county and Baltimore City to add additional locations.

Large counties such as Montgomery were allowed three additional sites, plus a fourth if the state Board of Elections, the local board and each county’s governing authority agree.

On Monday, Mary Anne Keeffe, president of the county’s Board of Elections, told three County Council members — Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring, Hans Riemer (D-At Large) of Takoma Park and Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring — that the board believes a ninth site is needed.

She spoke at a meeting of the council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee.

The three council members all said they support a ninth site.

A national survey showed that Maryland voters had some of the longest waits in the country for early voting in 2012, Keeffe said.

All five Montgomery sites were among the 12 most-used in the state, including the Germantown Recreation Center and the Silver Spring Civic Building, the two most heavily trafficked locations.

While Montgomery residents didn’t have to wait as long as voters elsewhere in Maryland, too few locations and insufficient time for early voting led to waits that were too long, Keeffe said.

“The problem was meeting the demand for early voting,” Keeffe said.

The Board of Elections has identified 16 potential sites for early voting.

They include the five that were used in 2012, which were in Germantown, Silver Spring, Burtonsville and Rockville.

There are 11 other possible locations in Silver Spring, Wheaton, Chevy Chase, Brookeville, Potomac, Bethesda, Gaithersburg and Damascus.

The five 2012 sites wouldn’t necessarily be used again in 2014, Keeffe said.

At least 80 percent of a county’s population must live within five miles of an early voting site, said Margaret Jurgensen, election director for the county Board of Elections.

If the county had nine sites, 93 percent of the county’s population would fall within that threshold, she said.

According to a county memorandum, adding three new early voting sites would cost about $158,000 in fiscal 2014. Adding four would cost nearly $211,000.

Amanda Mihill, a legislative attorney for the County Council, said she will talk to the six other council members. If a majority of the full council supports a ninth site, she will send a letter to the county Board of Elections indicating that support.

Other council members have previously supported adding a ninth site.