The Frederick County Board of Elections has taken issue with an idea from the county executive that would move the county liquor board into the same building as the election board.
The idea was to move the two entities into the same building at 340A Montevue Lane in Frederick.
Frederick County Election Director Stuart Harvey sent out a press release Tuesday arguing that such a move could compromise election security and produce operational problems if the liquor board were to move into the space at the rear of the building.
The space is used to house election equipment and bags full of ballots of other materials, Harvey added.
“My concern is just interfering with the process,” Harvey said. “If the liquor board was there, it’s going to be much more difficult for us to handle the election equipment. Where would we put it? Right now, we have all of that equipment stored back there. We have polling place supplies stored there. Our warehouse [across the street] is packed to the gills.”
County Executive Jan Gardner, however, said Wednesday that no decision has been made on moving the liquor board. She and county officials asked that board to move to free up space for other county agencies in Winchester Hall, to allow more room for increasing staff sizes and meeting space.
Liquor board coordinator Penny Bussard deferred comment to Gardner on the matter.
Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order in June creating the Maryland Cyber Defense Initiative, saying, “The State stores and processes a large volume of sensitive data and has a responsibility to its citizens and other data owners to protect the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of this data.”
The Board of Elections cited this order as reason for a potential security risk.
“The County’s Liquor Board would be placed next to the secure room where the Board secures its absentee ballots during elections. The Board believes this is an unacceptable risk, and poses a threat to critical election chain of custody of the ballots.”
However, Gardner noted that the Board of Elections has previously shared space with other county agencies in the past, including in Winchester Hall. If the liquor board were to relocate to 340A Montevue Lane, it would have its own entrance and would be separated from the Board of Elections, Gardner said.
“We’re very committed to security of elections, and keeping these spaces completely separate from each other and the activities involved completely separate and secure,” she said.
Harvey also had a concern about the primary election next April. The liquor board has to renew liquor licenses by May 1, and the election is April 28, he said.
“They’re going to have the heaviest traffic coming into this building at the same time we’re trying to train all the judges, especially any last-minute hires, so there would be a huge problem in terms of people coming and going in this building and parking,” Harvey said.
But Gardner said she didn’t understand the security risk, if both parties only had to possibly share a restroom off a central hallway. She added via email Thursday there are layout options for both agencies to have their own restrooms, and security cameras will be added to the building, no matter what occurs with the Board of Elections and liquor board.
“If they move into another part of the building where they’re completely walled off, I don’t understand how that would create any risk, and all of the Board of Elections areas are locked down and secured in multiple ways,” she said.
There is no timeline on any possible move, and Gardner said she would present final layout plans with Chuck Nipe, director of the Division of Public Works, to the Board of Elections before any decision is made.