You may or may not believe in ghosts, but if you live in Maryland, chances are you’ve encountered a few without realizing it. At a Baltimore Orioles game, for example. Or while walking in the city’s Wyman Park Dell, or observing the wildlife at the Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel. Maybe you’ve driven to the “Jones Thicket Ghost,” named for a road in Dorchester County where it can be found. Maryland has 54 “ghosts” — 51 scattered across ten counties, plus three in Baltimore. Ghost precincts, that is — voting precincts that, on Tuesday, will have no polling places, no election judges and will report no results. This is because these are areas where no voters live. Most of Maryland’s ghost precincts were created as a result of the last redistricting, when political boundaries for legislative, congressional and councilmanic districts were redrawn based on population data from the 2010 U.S. Census. After redistricting, voting precinct boundaries were also re-assessed and, if necessary, redrawn.
Prince George’s County, whose nine school board districts are sometimes distinct from its nine councilmanic districts, has 27 ghost precincts, more than five times any other jurisdiction. Election officials must consider all of these lines when they draw precinct boundaries, said Donna Duncan, assistant deputy for election policy at the state Board of Elections.
For example, an area that had previously been represented by one district could have been moved to another. In that case, it would have a different ballot than many of its neighbors, meaning it would need to be its own precinct. Even if it had no residential addresses, election officials would have had to assign a precinct number, creating a “ghost.”