Will Maryland Be Ready for 2024 Elections? Preparations Already Underway

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In between the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and the 250th year since the nation’s Declaration of Independence is next year’s 2024 presidential election.

And while the latter date in July 2026 demonstrates America’s durability, the former date of January 2021, which happened during the congressional certification of the results of the last presidential election, indicates the country’s fragility. It is in that context that thousands of state and local election officials will help facilitate the country’s next iteration of the democratic process.

“Election officials are the backbone of American democracy,” said David Levine, senior elections integrity fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy in Washington, D.C.

New election officials at the state level

In this file photo, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., took a photo of the Capitol dome at 3:42 a.m. on Jan. 7, 2021, following the final vote to certify the 2020 election.

In Maryland, several of those officials in leadership will be new to their positions, but their experience and continuity of operations from the 2022 midterm elections provide some stability.

“I look forward to working with you (all) as we steer this ship, the State Board of Elections,” said Michael Summers, a board member and former Prince George’s County state delegate, who was unanimously elected as the board’s chair in a meeting on Thursday, “holding Maryland as a standard bearer for the rest of the nation.”

Summers, a Democrat, replaces William Voelp, a Republican, as chair of the board. During Thursday’s online meeting, upon election Summers immediately nominated Voelp to the position of vice chair, to which he too was unanimously elected.

The duo on the five-member board, comprised of both Republicans and Democrats, are not the only elections officials who will be in new roles during the upcoming 2024 presidential election, with its May 14 primary date in Maryland.

In this file photo, a woman drops a ballot into a drop box while casting her vote during Maryland's primary election, Tuesday, July 19, 2022, in Baltimore.

The state is scheduled to have a new administrator for the State Board of Elections for the first time in over a quarter century. Administrator Linda Lamone, in the role since 1997, is scheduled to retire later this year, and the board voted unanimously for her replacement, Jared DeMarinis, a veteran of the State Board of Elections for nearly two decades, in June.

“We were especially impressed with his passion for well-run, nonpartisan elections, his vision for the board, his energy for increased cooperation and his innovative solution-based approach to advancing the responsibilities of the office,” said Summers of DeMarinis, currently the board’s director of the candidacy and campaign finance division, in a June release. The administrator is subject to the confirmation of the state’s Senate when it returns for its scheduled session Jan. 10.

Some counties in Maryland have new elections directors

Meanwhile DeMarinis, scheduled to begin the new role on Sept. 1, is charged with administering the state’s election procedures and coordinating with the local boards of election. A quarter of the state’s local election directors may be relatively new to their roles too.

“In the last 12 months, four new election directors have been appointed,” said State Board of Elections Deputy Administrator Nikki Charlson, in an email. “They are in Montgomery, Somerset, Talbot and Washington counties.”

She also said local boards in Cecil and Prince George’s counties are currently recruiting for a new election director. Prince George’s County is the state’s second-most populous jurisdiction behind only Montgomery County and its more than one million residents.

One of those starting in the elections director role is Barry Jackson, named in April as the election director at the Washington County Board of the Elections after serving as the county’s deputy election director for several years. He said for voters, much next year remains the same.

“The 2024 election is going to be very similar to 2022,” he said. “We’ll have the same voting equipment again that we had in 2022.”

Local election directors expect higher turnout next year

In this file photo, Washington County Deputy Election Director Barry Jackson gives instructions to election workers on the second day of counting mail-in ballots on Nov. 4, 2022. In a July 2023 interview, Jackson said election judges are set to receive a pay raise due to legislation passed by the General Assembly this year, which increases the minimum rate to $250 per day and incentivizes returning judges with a $100 bonus, half of which is paid for by the state.

While the voting equipment stays the same, the engine of democracy — the voters themselves — may be getting an additional boost given the presidential election at the top of the ballot.

“Voting is always heavier during the presidential election,” said Patti Jackson, Worcester County’s election director on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and an elections official of 38 years.

Both she and Jackson indicated their respective county’s voter turnout is closer to 80% during a presidential election, up from around 50% during a non-presidential election year. Nationwide, over two-thirds of eligible voters went to the polls in 2020, and that same year, Maryland had more than 70% of eligible voters casting a ballot.

Levine, a Maryland resident and fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, indicated that participation is key to sustaining and strengthening the system of government.

In this file photo, voters take to the polls at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Salisbury, Maryland.

“High voter turnout is a sign of a healthy, vibrant democracy,” he said. “It gives America greater moral authority …moral authority in terms of being able to conduct itself on the world stage.”

Source: Herald-Mail Media