Altercations between electioneers reported
County Board of Elections has had to ‘put out fires’ between volunteers
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.