Early voting sites the focus of upcoming debate in Annapolis

WASHINGTON — The Montgomery County Board of Elections will meet one day before the state Board of Elections reviews local complaints about a recent decision to shift early voting sites. The Montgomery County meeting — set for 5 p.m. Wednesday — is being held to reconsider that decision.

County Councilman Tom Hucker, who pushed for early voting as a state delegate, cried foul when the local board made the initial shift. He alleged it was an attempt to suppress voters. Hucker has criticized the board’s actions again.

“You do not talk about compromises when you’re talking about voting rights,” the councilman said during a press conference, his ire reserved for Montgomery Board of Elections President James Shalleck.

At a news conference Tuesday, Hucker announced he’d gathered 2,500 signatures on a petition to ask the Maryland State Board of Elections to reverse the Montgomery board’s decision of shifting two early voting sites.

The local board decided to close the Jane Lawton Community Recreation Center in Chase and the Marilyn J. Praisner Community Center in Burtonsville as early voting sites. Instead, the board approved early voting locations for Potomac and Brookeville. When questioned about the shift, Shalleck said the local board sought to achieve “geographic diversity.”

There are three Republicans, two Democrats and two substitute members on the Montgomery board. Hucker says his complaints about the local board aren’t political. At Tuesday’s news conference, local board member Mary Ann Keeffe said of the past: “We reached across the aisle, we had communication. The current process possessed none of those traits.”

Shalleck said the move to change the early voting sites was an attempt to give different areas of the county a chance at access.Hucker says state laws “spell out very clearly the specific requirements for site locations.”

“It’s not the role of the board to cook up any additional criteria like geographic diversity,” Hucker said.

The Maryland State Board of Elections will discuss the issue at 2 p.m. Thursday in Annapolis.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

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