Election officials call for additional staff, voting machines

January 31, 1995|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll election officials said yesterday they need to add two employees, about 120 election judges and create seven new voting precincts to handle the county's growing population and comply with the federal "motor-voter" law.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 requires the Motor Vehicle Administration and social service agencies to give people the opportunity to register to vote.

The law also says local election boards no longer may cancel voter registrations if people have not voted in an election in the past five years, said Rosemary McCloskey, Carroll's chief clerk.

An objective of the law, which took effect Jan. 1, is to expand the number of opportunities to register to vote so that more citizens will register.

The law has added record keeping requirements, which means the office needs more employees, Mrs. McCloskey told the county commissioners during a budget work session.

"Is this an unfunded mandate?" Commissioner Richard T. Yates asked.

Yes, said election board member Janet B. Jump.

The board eventually would like to station an employee at the MVA office in Westminster, Mrs. McCloskey said.

For now, an election clerk picks up voter registration applications at the MVA every Wednesday, she said.

From Jan. 1 to Jan. 24, 108 people registered to vote at the local MVA office.

MVA spokesman Jim Lang said the "motor-voter" system is working well.

"It's a good marriage," he said, because the documentation needed for each activity is similar. Voter registration forms are attached to driver's license applications.

Congress chose driver's license offices for the program because about 87 percent of people 18 and older have driver's licenses and another 4 percent have identification cards issued by the same office, according to a manual on the new law.

Previously, voter registration forms were available at the MVA, social service agencies, libraries and other offices, but they were stacked on a table or desk.

The Carroll election board asked to add a full-time elections clerk position at a salary of $15,540 per year and a part-time clerk to work four days a week at $12,430 per year.

The Maryland election board must approve the additional positions, but the county must pay the salaries.

Mrs. McCloskey forwarded her request to state officials yesterday and said she did not know when they would make a decision.

The Carroll election board requested an operating budget of $392,435 for the next fiscal year, a 4 percent increase compared with the current year's budget of $376,470. Fiscal year 1996 begins July 1.

The commissioners are reviewing $177 million in budget requests from county departments and agencies for the next fiscal year.

They will trim the requests and adopt a budget in May.

This year's operating budget is $144 million.

The election board also wants to create seven new precincts to accommodate the county's growing population, which grew by 28 percent from 1980 to 1990, Mrs. McCloskey said.

The precincts would be in the Freedom, Franklin, Mount Airy and Berrett districts, Ms. Jump said.

Adding precincts means the county would need about 120 more election judges and seven more computerized vote-counting machines, Mrs. McCloskey said.

The county leases the machines and used them for the first time in elections last year.

Officials signed a seven-year, $9,000-per-month lease for 45 Optech III-P Eagle machines.

About 480 election judges worked at the polls in last year's elections, and the board has asked to increase that number to about 600 and to raise judges' salaries to $100 per day from $90 per day.

The county has about 64,400 registered voters, 14 districts and 41 precincts.

Between the 1994 primary and general elections, about 1,300 voters were added to the rolls.

Ms. Jump also asked for a $500 per year raise for the three-member election board. Members now earn $2,500 per year and have not had a raise in 10 years, she said.

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