Maryland Reestablishes Mail-In Only Special Election, Resolving Inner-Conflict

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Patrick Hauf Contributor
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The Maryland Board of Elections decided unanimously to ensure there will be no in-person voting for the state’s April 28 special election to fill the seat of the late Elijah Cummings, countering efforts from the agency’s staff to establish voting sites. 

The Daily Caller reported Tuesday that Maryland would be hosting three voting locations for the special election, which would have conflicted with Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to make the election mail-in only. This report was based on confirmations of two conference calls made Monday by the Maryland Board of Election agency staff: one to the two campaigns and the other to the local election leaders where the three voting sites would have been located. The board itself, which consists of five members appointed by the governor, rejected the idea of hosting voting sites during its Wednesday meeting.

“I think it’s very difficult figuring out how to pull this off,” Patrick J. Hogan, the vice chairman of the board said during the meeting. “I’m just trying to go through my mind how to do it and it’s real mental gymnastics.” (RELATED: INTERACTIVE: This Map Shows How Many Have Died From COVID-19 In Each State)

Hogan, who is not related to the governor and goes by P.J., told the Caller that the board members were not aware of conference calls made by the agency’s staff Monday. 

The Monday conference call made to local election leaders in Howard County, Baltimore County, and Baltimore City was led by Nikki Charlson, the deputy state administrator for the Maryland Board of Elections directory. Charlson told the Caller that the call was to inform the local leaders that there would be a voting site in each jurisdiction. These sites, she said, would aim to provide assistance to voters with disabilities who are unable to cast a ballot through the mail but would also be open to any voters who wanted to cast a ballot in-person. 

The five board members expressed concerns during their Wednesday meeting regarding how these voting sites would operate and whether or not they would be safe to open amidst the coronavirus crisis. A core concern debated was whether the board could rally their usual volunteers to operate the polls, many of which they noted are retirees. A representative from the Maryland Health Department said he could not guarantee there would be material available to ensure proper sanitation at voting sites. (RELATED: Sec. Mnuchin Says Americans Will Receive Stimulus Checks Within Three Weeks)

P.J. Hogan told the Caller that he and other board members were not convinced that these voting sites were necessary for people with disabilities, who he said should be able to vote by filling out a ballot online. 

“The risk wasn’t worth the benefit with the technology we have now,” he told the Caller. 

The board also recommended that there should be no in-person voting for the state’s election in June, which was originally scheduled for April 28 but was delayed to counter the spread of the coronavirus. Maryland reported 157 new cases of the coronavirus in the state Thursday morning, bringing to total infected to nearly 600.

Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan talks about the relationship between state governors and the Trump administration during the coronavirus crisis with Fox News, March 23, 2020. Fox News screenshot

Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan talks about the relationship between state governors and the Trump administration during the coronavirus crisis with Fox News, March 23, 2020. Fox News screenshot

The Monday conference call with the two opposing special election campaigns — Republican Kimberly Klacik and former Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume — was led by Jared DeMarinis, the director of the Candidacy and Campaign Finance Division for the Maryland Board of Elections Directory. 

Klacik tweeted a video Tuesday morning expressing her concerns in response to the call. She told the Caller that she’s pleased to hear there will be no in-person voting but still has concerns about how all the mail-in ballots will be counted. 

“I bet Mfume made this request and Jared granted it,” Klacik told the Caller. “Mfume is known for taking seniors to the polls by bus. His base doesn’t typically vote by mail. This was a favor, no doubt in my mind.”

The Mfume campaign and DeMarinis did not respond for comment. 

DeMarinis previously worked as a staff assistant for former Democratic New Jersey Sen. Robert Torricelli from 1996 to 1998, according to his LinkedIn page. Torricelli ended his reelection campaign in 2002 after being “severely admonished” by the U.S. Senate for accepting illegal gifts and cash. 

“This is a poorly run election,” Klacik told the Caller. “I know these are difficult times, but I wish they would’ve thought this out more.”

Cummings’ vacated seat is for Maryland’s 7th district, which has never been represented by a Republican. (RELATED: Trump Sends Letter To Governors Laying Out Plan To Potentially Relax Coronavirus Guidelines)

Mfume represented the district from 1987 to 1996, serving as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus from 1993 to 1995. Cummings succeeded Mfume, who resigned from Congress to serve as president and CEO of the NAACP. Mfume later resigned from the NAACP in 2004 after allegations emerged of his alleged sexual harassment, mismanagement, and nepotism in the workplace. 

Klacik is an elected member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee and founder of “Potential Me” — a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged women reenter the workforce and become financially independent. She grew in popularity over the summer of 2019 after detailing the abundance of litter on the streets of Baltimore in a series of viral tweets that caught the attention of President Donald Trump, sparking a national cleanup effort. 

The winner of the April 28 special election will have to continue campaigning for another election in November while serving the remainder of Cummings’ term, which ends in January.