‘De Facto Voter Suppression’ in Maryland

‘De Facto Voter Suppression’ in Maryland

Listen to Pete’s interview with Councilmember Tom Hucker for WPFW’s On The Ground.

In Tuesday’s election, Maryland Democrats held on to their overwhelming congressional advantage while picking up seats in the state House and maintaining their supermajority in state Senate. Democrats also added to their county executive chairs, with wins in both Anne Arundel and Howard County, where Calvin Ball was elected the county’s first African American county executive.

But in the governor’s race, incumbent Republican Larry Hogan bested Democratic challenger Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP, by 13 points. That’s decidedly less than the 20 points the Washington Post predicted Hogan would win by as recently as a week ago. And that difference might have been even less had there not been widespread voting irregularities in heavily African American precincts.

In Prince George’s County alone over a dozen polling places ran out of printed ballots. NBC4 reporter Shomari Stone posted a stunning two-minute video to Twitter, in which he walked the entire line at Brandywine Elementary. Stone reported the line had more than 1,500 people, some of whom had been waiting four to five hours to vote.

Meanwhile, next door in Montgomery County, the Marilyn Praisner Community Center in Burtonsville, another heavily African American precinct, also experienced hours-long wait times. Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker, who spent time at the Praisner Center on election day, said that what took place was “de facto voter suppression.”

This isn’t the first time the Praisner Center has faced challenges, Councilmember Hucker told me in an interview for WPFW’s On the Ground. Three years ago Montgomery County’s Republican controlled Board of Elections tried to stop the Praisner Center from being an early voting center. The effort failed, but voters still faced difficulties voting there Tuesday.

“Voting shouldn’t be an all-day affair and we shouldn’t have barriers in place that especially effect low income voters, African American and Latino voters, and young parents and elderly voters, who can’t stand in line two and three hours to vote,” said Hucker, who spoke with several people who weren’t able to endure the lines and left without voting.

“It’s very frustrating,” the councilmember continued. “We’ll never know how many went there and couldn’t wait in line for two or three hours and turned around” or how many got word of hours-long waits and didn’t even try.

One of those who did vote was former Burtonsville chief election judge JoAnn Jamsa, who called this Burtonsville’s worst run election since Nixon vs. Kennedy, said Hucker.

Corrections: This story and headline have been updated to reflect that Councilmember Tom Hucker said he called what took place “de facto voter suppression,” not “an attempt at voter suppression,” as the Post reported.

Also the story originally stated that Democrats made gains in the state Senate, but they lost one seat, while maintaining their supermajority.

Photo credit: @TomHucker

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