Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday that campaign workers and reporters will be kept away from the clerks counting votes in the Nov. 6 general election, enabling the count to proceed more smoothly than it did in the Sept. 11 primary.
Separate facilities were to have been put in place for the primary by the Bureau of Management Information Systems. Its failure to do so was seen as contributing to delays.
"They have been working on this for the past few weeks, and everyone seems confident with the changes," Mr. Schmoke said.
Also yesterday, Edward F. Hay, who is helping to fine-tune a new, computerized tally system for the city, said election officials hope to speed the count Nov. 6 by more than doubling the number of data-entry clerks and bringing in fresh people as the polls close, rather than relying on the same workers all day.
The city Board of Elections was unable to provide complete unofficial returns for two days after the polls closed last month, while those in Maryland's counties were released within hours.
As Baltimore's poll results came in on Sept. 11, operators working a manually controlled display screen flashed election results based on the shouted requests of reporters and campaign workers. The din, which Mr. Schmoke likened to the chaotic atmosphere of the New York Stock Exchange, distracted data-entry workers in an adjoining area as they strained to hear vote tallies read. Poorly trained election judges, inexperienced and overworked data clerks and the failure of a printing company to deliver vote-tally sheets in time contributed to the problems.
City officials said the data clerks in the general election will work in the Abel Wolman Municipal Building, across from City Hall. Vote tallies will be transmitted to a pair of video displays in another city office building across War Memorial Plaza.
Mr. Hay said extra election workers will be on hand to immediately check vote-tally sheets for missing or illegible numbers as they arrive from the precincts. Election officials, who were too swamped to do so during the primary, will be able to promptly check back with precincts for the needed information.
The city has dismissed the printing firm that was late with the tally sheets and hired another.
The September primary marked the first time in more than a century that the board -- and not the Baltimore Police Department -- provided election night returns.
The computerized system was to have replaced the Police Department's pencil-and-paper methods, speeding elections returns.
But after the primary, several political leaders expressed concern that the board had been caught unprepared and the computerized system was vulnerable to problems.
City Council President Mary Pat Clarke introduced a council resolution calling on the Police Department to once again handle election returns. The council plans to take up the issue during an Oct. 17 hearing. "Really, it's better for the board to do it," Mr. Schmoke said. "That's the way it's done in the rest of the state, and we're just trying to catch up."