Stuart Harvey has been involved in helping run elections for three decades, but the November presidential election poses challenges he’s never seen before, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Harvey, the county’s Election Director, wrote in an email Friday that typically, Frederick County has 900 election judges manning all the county’s polling places during a presidential general election. But he’s advising the county’s Board of Elections that because of the pandemic, less polling places should be used, both because of lower staffing levels and private locations being closed.

Normally, one polling place is required per precinct, but in an emergency and with the state Board of Elections’ approval, that can be changed, Harvey said.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has called for the November election to proceed in a more normal fashion than the primary in June, saying more polling places should open and early voting days should be held. He did so, in part, because of frustration at the haphazardness of the primary in some locations, including in Baltimore.

The state Board of Elections agreed in a meeting in July to not hold a “traditional election,” but couldn’t agree on whether it should run like the primary, or if more polling places should open.

“This is a two-tier election, unlike any I’ve conducted in 30 years,” Harvey wrote in an email about this November’s election. “We are encouraging vote-by-mail for voters, at the same time we’re being asked to open the polling places on Nov. 3 and also conduct eight days of early voting. That puts a huge strain on a very small staff.”

Harvey added personal protective equipment is provided at his office and at the polls, but election judge training must be done using social distancing, creating logistical issues and potentially exposing those people to the virus.

Walter Olson, a fellow at the Cato Institute and constitutional scholar, said the power of election law and procedures is mostly in the hands of state and local governments.

The state’s General Assembly could call a special session to try and change Hogan’s plan, Olson said. Regardless of what happens in Maryland, each state’s ability to run its election differently is good government, Olson said.

“If the federal government had taken over a lot of power in election procedure, it could abuse that power,” Olson said. “You wind up with that inconsistent practice … [but] it means that the power is decentralized, and that’s good thing.”

Moving forward, Harvey said he would prefer to run the November election like the primary held in June. Safety is a key part of that, as only 1,341 residents voted in person at two voting centers on June 2, he said.

Harvey said if he and other local officials have to follow Hogan’s plan, voters might throw away applications for mail-in ballots they would receive by mail in late August or early September. That could lead to many people voting in person in November, crowding the polls, he added.

“Because the governor has ordered that all polls be open on Election Day, he risks the safety of staff, election judges and the public,” Harvey wrote. “The State Board unanimously agreed that we should not have a normal, in person election this November. My fear is that November 3 in Maryland may look like the Wisconsin or Georgia primaries this year, both of which were election disasters.”

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter:

@Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(18) comments

DickD

Auto correct got me again. That was Stu, not stuff. Lol

DickD

Stuff can rest easy, we will be voting by mail. Two votes for a better America!

neilyoungfan25

Harvey, put your biggie boy pants on and do your job! Voting in person is no different than going to work for many people who work at places with many employees. I will only vote in person. There were many issues across the US with mail-in only voting. Figure it out Mr Harvey!

Dwasserba

We just dropped ours in a box.

DickD

Stu has always done a excellent job!

bosco

OMG, we've been able to go to WalMart, Home Depot, Giant, and protest marches with 5,000 people in Frederick but suddenly we are afraid to vote in person?

[ninja]

DickD

Do you want visitors at the hospital, bosco?

MysReader2020

What precinct are you working in, Bosco?

bosco

Have you two been out of the house since March? How is going to the polls to vote in person any different than going to Home Depot, Walmart, or Giant in person? Tell me that. How is it different from an epidemiology standpoint? What is the science behind your derision of me having the freedom to choose how I vote?

[ninja][ninja]

MysReader2020

Spend 13 hours in a mask at a polling place helping your neighbors exercise their freedom to vote this year, Bosco. Be a citizen instead of a complainer.

public-redux

bos, What’s with your derision toward people having the freedom to choose how they vote?

DickD

You can vote any way you want. I was just going to be ready to offer my sympathy, if needed.

public-redux

“I will only vote in person.”

Go for it! Others will choose differently.

bosco

As long as there is a choice of how to vote, including in person, I'll be happy. It seems one side wants all vote by mail or nothing. Take a look at the vote by mail primary in Democrat run NYC for a preview of November if the Dems get their way.

If Trump was the stable genius that he thinks he is, he would've announced that he was against in person voting because of the pandemic and then the Dems would've been scrambling to make sure in person voting happens.

[ninja]

public-redux

“It seems one side wants all vote by mail or nothing.”

Who is advocating for no in-person voting this fall?

bosco

Start with Pelosi and work your way down. Just google it and you'll find it.

[ninja]

public-redux

bosco, So you've made it up?

matthewboh

Hogan was doing so well, but now he's dropping the ball and following the Trump trail. What happened?

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