Elec­tion Day tran­sit ser­vice sparks de­bate

County ul­ti­mately pro­vides ser­vice

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD tward@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @CalRecTAMARA

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.

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