Al­ter­ca­tions between elec­tion­eers re­ported

County Board of Elec­tions has had to ‘put out fires’ between vol­un­teers

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By PAUL LA­GASSE pla­gasse@somd­

Charles County Board of Elec­tions per­son­nel have re­sponded to sev­eral in­ci­dents of con­flicts erupt­ing between cam­paign vol­un­teers of op­pos­ing can­di­dates in at least two polling places fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions made to the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Mary­land on Fri­day.

In a so­cial me­dia post on Satur­day, the ACLU of Mary­land re­ported that it had re­ceived sev­eral ac­counts of “what ap­pears to be voter ha­rass­ment and sup­pres­sion ac­tiv­i­ties stok­ing racial ten­sions at two early vot­ing cen­ters” the pre­vi­ous day.

“Al­le­ga­tions in­clude rip­ping up of fly­ers from some­one’s hand, mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions by cam­paign vol­un­teers about the party af­fil­i­a­tion of a can­di­date, and vot­ers be­ing told on so­cial me­dia and in per­son not to go to Wal­dorf s early vot­ing site over ap­par­ent racial di­vi­sions,” the an­nounce­ment said.

The ACLU re­ported th­ese al­le­ga­tions to the Mary­land State Board of Elec­tions, which in turned re­ferred an in­quiry from the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent to the Charles County Board of Elec­tions.

County elec­tion di­rec­tor Tracy A. Dick­er­son con­firmed that the county elec­tions board had been no­ti­fied about the ACLU’s con­cerns and that she has had to visit both polling places “to put out fires between cam­paign­ers” for in­ci­dents sim­i­lar to those de­scribed by the ACLU.

Dick­er­son said that the county

board of elec­tions has not been con­tacted by any vot­ers al­leg­ing ha­rass­ment.

“The in­ci­dents we have heard of are between the elec­tion­eers them­selves,” Dick­er­son said. “We have not had calls from vot­ers [say­ing] that they have been in­tim­i­dated.”

Amy Cruice, di­rec­tor of the ACLU of Mary­land’s elec­tion pro­tec­tion cam­paign, said that the in­ci­dents that were re­ported to her were between cam­paign work­ers, but she was con­cerned that such con­flicts could cre­ate an in­tim­i­dat­ing en­vi­ron­ment that makes vot­ers avoid the polls.

“We want to hear di­rectly from peo­ple who wit­ness th­ese in­ci­dents,” Cruice said. “We ask vot­ers that if they wit­ness

some­thing, to record it and re­port it.”

The ACLU’s elec­tion pro­tec­tion hot­line is open dur­ing busi­ness hours through­out the early vot­ing pe­riod and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Elec­tion Day to re­port prob­lems or get help at 410-889-8555.

On Thurs­day and Fri­day, Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice deputies re­sponded to three com­plaints called in by cam­paign vol­un­teers at the Gle­nea­gles Neigh­bor­hood Cen­ter early vot­ing sta­tion in St. Charles, but no charges were filed in any of the in­stances, ac­cord­ing to Di­ane Richard­son, sher­iff’s of­fice spokesper­son.

Ni­cole Ben­nett, chair of the Charles County Repub­li­can Cen­tral Com­mit­tee, told the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent that she was con­cerned that ran­cor between the cam­paign vol­un­teers might turn vot­ers off.

Ben­nett posted a plea on so­cial me­dia Thurs­day af­ter­noon call­ing for Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic poll work­ers to “con­duct them­selves in a pro­fes­sional man­ner.”

“We all live here and on Novem­ber 7 we will still be neigh­bors and friends,” Ben­nett wrote in her post. “Let’s act like adults and make the rest of the elec­tion cy­cle a peace­ful ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Ben­nett said that “ag­gres­sive be­hav­ior or hate­ful rhetoric” would not be tol­er­ated from any Repub­li­can poll work­ers, can­di­dates or sup­port­ers. She in­vited the lead­er­ship of the Demo­cratic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee to join her in “ask­ing for a peace­ful and re­spect­ful elec­tion cy­cle for the sake of our beloved county.”

Ben­nett told the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent that she is con­cerned about the lev­els of an­gry rhetoric that she has seen on dis­play at the county’s two early vot­ing sta­tions, at Gle­nea­gles and the La Plata Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment.

“This is a black eye for our county re­gard­less of who’s in­volved,” Ben­nett told the Mary­land In­de­pen­dent. “We need to re­mem­ber to be good cit­i­zens first.”

Calls to the chair of the Charles County Demo­cratic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee were not re­turned by press time.

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