Montgomery Co. resolutions: Vote-by-mail, eviction protections, Indigenous Peoples Day

The Montgomery County, Maryland, council on Tuesday introduced a resolution supporting a vote-by-mail plan that would mail ballots directly to voters, skipping the requirement to apply for absentee ballots.

The move comes after Gov. Larry Hogan called for a plan that would have all polling places open for in-person voting on Nov. 3. Hogan also called on the state Board of Elections to make absentee ballots available for all eligible voters.

But council members voiced concerns about Hogan’s plan, instead saying vote-by-mail would give all voters more access and protect against the possibility of the transmission of the coronavirus.

Council member Gabe Albornoz told his fellow members, “My dad, who is 74 years old, proudly signed up to serve as an election judge.” He’s bilingual, and is “exactly the kind of person that we need to recruit” to serve.

But Albornoz, citing the coronavirus pandemic and his father’s age, said “I don’t want to put my dad, or any of the volunteers or election judges, at risk” of having to choose between fulfilling their civic duty or facing possible exposure to the coronavirus: “That is a false choice.”

Hogan has said he wants to prevent the kind of failures that cropped up during the June 2 primary election, in which ballots arrived late in some jurisdiction, not at all in some others. Despite the problems, 97% of ballots cast in the primary were cast by mail.

Eviction protection

The council also introduced a measure to approve a special appropriation of $20 million for COVID-19 response, including money for rental assistance and the prevention of evictions. A public hearing for that plan is scheduled for July 28.

Council member Andrew Friedson said of the plan, “This was an area where we all decided to put aside our individual need to get credit.” He credited his colleagues and County Executive Marc Elrich’s office for moving ahead with a plan to help those who most need it.

An estimated 13,000 renters in Montgomery County are delinquent on payments due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Indigenous Peoples Day

Council member Nancy Navarro introduced a resolution to designate the second Monday in October, traditionally celebrated as Columbus Day, as Indigenous Peoples Day.

“This is not about erasing history, but instead elevating traditionally silenced voices as part of our historical narrative,” she said.

The measure also calls on the Maryland General Assembly to adopt it as a state holiday, and encourages the Montgomery County Public Schools to review the curriculum to introduce more material on the history and cultures of the country’s indigenous peoples.

More than 70 jurisdictions across the country have made the holiday designation, including D.C.; Alexandria, Virginia; and the City of Takoma Park. Prince George’s County has recognized the day as Native American Day.

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