Back in 2000, the state of Florida became an international laughingstock over its difficulties tallying ballots. Baltimore has escaped that ignominy so far this year only because the fate of a presidential election is not in the balance. But the difficulty of its elections specialists in tallying ballots from April 26 is just as unforgiveable as was Florida’s. Baltimore, we’ve got a problem here — and it did not begin with this election cycle. As The Sun recently reported, what we have experienced is in many ways déjà vu all over again. Still, a history of persistent problems does not mean the future has to be fraught with them, too — especially the predictable ones like too few and poorly trained election judges who are ultimately responsible for the smooth operation of more than 200 polling places and the delivery of voting results after the polls close.
Voting should not be a disheartening experience, as it apparently was for an untold number of would-be voters on April 26. I have heard from various sources that some people gave up after finding that their polling places were not open at 7 a.m. Others found that they were listed as a member of a party they had not chosen. Some people were given the wrong ballots. Some poll workers were pressed into service as election judges. We know from what officials have said that there was a marked discrepancy between the number of people who signed in at some polling places and the number of ballots recorded.
Some officials, like state Sen. Joan Carter Conway, have been dismissive of those who have sounded the alarm about irregularities in the process. “It’s just like sour grapes,” she has said. And Armstead B.C. Jones, the director of the Board of Elections, has circled the wagons. “I refuse to let anybody indict this board,” he has said.
Even if the state’s review of Baltimore’s troubling April 26 performance confirms the preliminary outcomes of mayoral and City Council races, the problems that have surfaced should not be swept under a rug. Scrutiny may be inconvenient, but it is long overdue.