City elections board to get more workers, training and dry run

September 27, 1990|By David Michael Ettlin

Baltimore's elections board will have extra help, more training for precinct judges and a dry run two weeks before the general election so there will be no repeat performance of the problems that marred its tally in the primary, the state elections administrator said yesterday.

Gene Raynor, Maryland's elections chief, said he ordered the changes to ensure that the vote count in the Nov. 6 election is "completed with swiftness and accuracy."

The city board had been criticized for shutting down its operations at 2 a.m. on primary night, suspending the unofficial vote count with several races undecided. The problems prompted City Council President Mary Pat Clarke to introduce a resolution Monday night calling for the Police Department to resume responsibility for the initial tally.

Barbara Jackson, who now heads the city elections operation, has been quoted as saying she did not have enough workers on election night. She referred to problems with using a new computer system and said some election judges who submitted incomplete precinct tally sheets had been poorly trained.

Mr. Raynor said he discussed the problems Tuesday with Gov. William Donald Schaefer, and met yesterday morning in Baltimore with Ms. Jackson, four members of the city Board of Elections Supervisors and two representatives from the state attorney general's office to "find answers to those problems they confronted in the September primary."

Also present, he said, were supervisors of the city government's computer operations who will lend the elections office eight data entry clerks on election night.

"Election judges in those precincts where they experienced difficulties with return sheets . . . will be called into the office before the general election, and a review given to those judges on exactly what is expected of them on election night," Mr. Raynor said.

"They're going to have a test run two weeks before the election," he said, adding that explanations will be provided to the news media about "how results will be taken election night."

Mr. Raynor also said some election workers will be "put on shift work," so they will not be on duty from 6 o'clock in the morning until 2 o'clock the next morning.

Noting that in the primary the city elections board for the first time in more than a century took over responsibility for the unofficial count from the city Police Department, he said that task likely will not be handed back to the police.

Mr. Raynor said that "150 years ago Baltimore was called Mobtown. They had shootings and stabbings on election night and all sorts of shenanigans. . . . Election officials were obviously intimidated."

The situation prompted a 19th- century governor to turn over responsibility for the unofficial election night canvass to the police, and it remained in police hands until this year's primary.

"My understanding is that the police will not be involved in the count," Mr. Raynor said of the upcoming election. "It is the job of election officials."

About the election board's recent problems, he said: "For the first time, they took on a tremendous job and made a tremendous effort of doing it. But it just fell short. And in November it will not fall short. It will be completed with swiftness and accuracy."

Ms. Jackson had to leave the meeting early to attend a meeting of the city Board of Estimates, where a contract with a Pennsylvania company that provided some supplies for the election was canceled.

The United States Election Corp. of West Chester, Pa., had been awarded a $57,456 contract to provide printed material used in voting machines to record each vote and the tally sheets used by election judges. The city purchasing department and elections board complained of "poor quality of work, late deliveries and generally poor work performance" by the firm.

The Board of Estimates awarded the remaining work for the general election, worth nearly $26,000, to the next-lowest bidder, the Paul Co. of Baltimore.

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