Appreciation for election workers as Md.’s primary season begins

It’s been a rough few years for elections workers; in Montgomery County, people turned out to show their support. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
It’s been a rough few years for elections workers; in Montgomery County, people turned out to show their support. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
It’s been a rough few years for elections workers; in Montgomery County, people turned out to show their support. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)

Bouquets of flowers in Mason jars filled a table with a poster-sized thank-you card as Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” blared from a portable speaker Tuesday in the parking lot of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

The occasion was a public appreciation for election workers as Maryland’s primary season gets underway.

Nancy Soreng, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Maryland, led a cheer: “Election heroes! We love you!” as members of civic groups such as the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and For the People milled about.

As groups of elections workers filed out of their offices, Soreng told them, “I know you still have your own challenges, like maybe wondering when exactly the election’s going to be … and where exactly the precincts are going to be!”

Maryland’s redistricting process has been messy, with court challenges leading to a delay for the state’s primary. The original date was June 28, but after one legal fight, the date’s been set for July 19.

But a legal challenge to the state’s legislative district map remains in the Maryland Court of Appeals. If that map is tossed out, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh suggested this week that it’s likely the primary would have to be pushed back yet again.

There was a serious side to the event as well: a recognition that election officials across the U.S. have concerns for their personal safety, according to a poll cited by the Brennan Center for Justice. And that’s why thanking election workers is so important, Soreng said.

Elbridge James, a Montgomery County resident, said he’s served as an elections judge for more than 15 years. “It has been my pleasure to serve and work with you,” he told the workers, “but more important, as one of your volunteers, I really would like to applaud you all for the support and the help that you give us.”

Nina Uzick, an employee who does outreach for the Board of Elections, said: “I feel especially appreciated. But I feel appreciated every day that I can work here.”

Uzick’s parents were immigrants, and she said she’s been committed to helping people take part in the election process.

“When you see somebody vote for the first time, it makes you believe,” she said with a smile.

Acting Board of Elections Director Alysoun McLaughlin also appreciated the show of support.

“Elections are not something that a staff of 30 people administers for a county of over a million,” McLaughlin said. “We rely on election judges, and really the whole of the community, to make elections successful.”

As for the primary, McLaughlin said, “We’ll be ready whenever the election is going to be held.”

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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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