November Election Brings New Challenges to Local Officials with Pandemic

NBC Universal, Inc.

There are less than 100 days until the November election and local jurisdictions are in a bind to find ways to allow people to vote during a pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has created a shortage of election judges and staff for polling centers and mail-in ballots seem to lack trust from some voters.

Polling places will be open on Election Day in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. but social distancing could cause long lines. On top of that some counties are in need of volunteers.

"Historically, on average we would staff our 240 odd precincts with about 35 hundred volunteers, including our 11 early voting centers. Right now we’re hovering at 1,500 to 1,200," said Gilberto Zelaya of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

Voters across the region are being encouraged to use absentee ballots and avoid the polls if possible. However, the process for obtaining one depends on where you live.

The District is sending all voters mail-in ballots. While Maryland will send applications for mail-in ballots to voters. In Virginia, voters are required to a request the ballot themselves through an application.

"We’re looking at absentee making 50 percent or greater of the total turnout this year," said Fairfax County Elections Director Gary Scott.


Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia local news, events and information

National Memorial Day Parade honors veterans on National Mall

Two young men found fatally shot in Silver Spring park

Some fear that mail-in ballots could lead to election fraud or unfair results. Scott said those fears that voting by mail will lead to fraud or unfair results is unfounded.

"Reports that it favors one party or another, those are not supportable accusations, demonstrable accusations."

Even though there is no evidence to suggest unfair results, mail-in ballots have caused delayed results.

In the Maryland primary, results were not official for weeks. Some worry how this could impact the outcome of the  presidential race.

"As to certify the election, our goal is within the month, but we must be realistic. We don’t know what the turnout will be," Zelaya said

Contact Us