Montgomery County elections board hiring workers to test, prep voting machines

Montgomery County’s Board of Elections is getting extra help to carry out testing and preparation of the voting machines that will be used in this fall’s election.

The board needs more help because there are fewer voting centers, elections board officials said.

Voting before this year was held in each of the county’s 250 precincts, said Gilberto Zelaya, public information officer for the Montgomery County Board of Elections. Each precinct had just one type of ballot — one specific to the races in that precinct.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all that. “This time, we have 39 vote centers,” Zelaya said, adding that voters aren’t tied to their local precincts. “So, if I live in Clarksburg, I can vote in Silver Spring on Election Day. So each ballot marking device will house — electronically — every single ballot style.”

Not only that, but, “We will have large bins with every single ballot style if people want to vote by paper,” he said.


That means testing the scanners and ballot marking devices has been taking much longer than normal.

Lisa Jones, a elections board staff member who gave a demonstration of the testing process Monday morning, said, “Right now, we are at pretty much four and a half to five hours” to run a “test deck” of sample ballots through the voting machines to check whether every portion of the ballot is read accurately by each and every machine.

Margaret Jurgensen, elections director for the county elections board, told reporters at the Monday briefing, “We are struggling, I admit, but we are bringing on more staff to prepare the voting units.”

That includes temporary workers and county employees from other departments. “We are utilizing some recreation staff, and we have started bringing in some election judges who are waiting to assist us,” Jurgensen said.

Zelaya added that the push is on to get those extra hands on deck as early voting begins Oct. 26.

Jurgensen urged voters who plan to vote by mail to send their ballots in as soon as possible. Zelaya echoed that, saying, “The more ballots we receive in-house, the more we can incorporate into the canvass, and the better the results will be election night.”

For those who plan on using a drop box, Jurgensen said, “there will be 53 drop boxes across the county by Oct. 24.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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