Smith Island will get polling station

PRINCESS ANNE — Smith Islanders will get a polling place at Ewell School for the Tuesday, Nov. 3 General Election, but their ballots will not be counted until the following day.

The decision to create this exception by the Somerset County Board of Elections Supervisors was reached last week after considering all of the options “and a lot of input from the state board”

Chairman Jim Riley Sr. said two judges will be trained to oversee the election and they will be provided lists of qualified voters and voters who requested a mail-in ballot.

Residents who wish to vote in person on election day will receive a ballot. After it is filled out it will be placed in a special bag and sealed when polls close.

On Wednesday morning Nov. 4 the judges will take this sealed bag in person to the Princess Anne elections office. These ballots will then be included with other provisional ballots collected from the three voting centers on the mainland and run through a scanner to be tabulated.

Dr. Riley called it “a pretty good kind of compromise” because residents will be able to vote in person, and have their votes tabulated — it just won’t be through the scanner at that time because no electronic equipment will be taken to Ewell.

“It’s going back to the old style,” he said.

“Fill in your ballot, and put it in the ballot box.”

It was resident complaints especially about the inconvenience for seniors that required the local elections board to rethink its prior decision. There are no voting precincts this election year due to limitations created by the coronavirus pandemic and instead there will be three “voting centers” on the mainland — Crisfield High School, Washington High School, and the Somerset County Technical High School, which will be the site for early voting Oct. 26 through Nov. 2.

Voters may also request a mail-in ballot. Elections Board member Jerry Boston said out of 116 registered voters in Ewell and Rhodes Point nearly a third have already requested a ballot by mail.

On Tylerton, over half of its 35 voters have requested a mail-in ballot.

Voters who do not want to use the U.S. Mail to return the ballot may drop them into one of three secure drop boxes that will be located at CHS, SCTHS, and the County Office Complex.

Mr. Boston said the state required two voting centers in Somerset County, “but the county did more” by adding a third.

As for Smith Island being a full polling place, electronic poll books must be moved by a special contractor and not by election judges, and they must have good internet access — which on the island was another issue. Mr. Boston said as ballots are scanned they are checked by the state to be sure a voter isn’t voting twice.

County Commissioner Randy Laird, who represents Smith Island, said those that want to vote in person won’t be utilizing the same technology as others in the county and their provisional ballots will not be counted until the next day, “and they’re being singled out.”

If connectivity needed upgrading, “it should have been done six months ago,” he said. If there are other election concerns, voters may take them to the local and/or state election board.