Election Day transit service sparks debate
County ultimately provides service
Calvert County government came under fire after issuing a press release stating that transit service in the county would be canceled on Election Day.
The initial notice that the county’s public transportation would not operate on Nov. 6 sparked concerns by the local Democratic Party of possible voter suppression.
“It’s not surprising that the 5 Republican commissioners are trying to suppress the vote by shutting down public transportation,” read a post on the Calvert County Democratic Central Committee’s Facebook page Sunday, offering citizens free rides to county polling places.
“Any hint of voter suppression goes against everything we believe in Calvert County. Our elected officials and staff adhere to a much higher standard,” Commissioners’ President Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) said.
Slaughenhoupt explained to The Calvert Recorder that the press release was routine for when county government closes for holidays, such as Veterans Day, which was also included in the release.
“The county normally closes for Election [Day] — it’s protocol. It wasn’t until the press release came out that we realized transportation was included,” Slaughenhoupt said, initially noting it was a human error. “It’s clear the buses are going to be running tomorrow, but [we’re] waiting for confirmation due to staffing implications,” Slaughenhoupt said Monday, suggesting that in a future commissioners’ meeting they may have to address compensation for the impacted bus drivers and transportation staff who will have to come in on Election Day.
The board president later revealed that buses never ran during previous election days, either presidential or gubernatorial, in part due to bus routes not going to polling places. However, he said the county was still working to get the buses running Tuesday anyway.
Contrary to Slaughenhoupt’s claim, the Recorder found an October 2014 news release that states the “County public transportation will operate on a modified schedule on Election Day. Copies of the modified schedule are available on each bus.”
“We’re not calling this voter suppression. We understand the Election Day is a holiday and that buses are not running. We do feel if services like the golf course, the dump and the transfer stations are open, that transportation should be available, too,” Calvert Democratic Central Committee Chair David Salazar told the Recorder. “We are asking for a change.”
Late Monday morning the county issued a press release announcing public transportation services would be available Nov. 6 “due to heightened interest.” County buses were slated to run on a regular schedule and along regular routes. However, bus routes did not include all polling places. The county encouraged riders to call Calvert public transportation or go to www.calvertcountymd.gov/transporta- tion to determine whether their polling places were accessible through county bus service. Curb-to-curb transportation was offered to seniors ages 60 and up and Americans with Disabilities Act customers on Election Day by appointment only.
Regardless of county transit operating Tuesday, Salazar said the central committee still planned to provide transportation for voters in need of a lift. “We have an entire system in place to help get people to the polls — regardless of party. We’re not going to ask and we don’t care,” Salazar said Monday.