Early voting starts – city precinct disappears

Early voting in Takoma Park city elections, 2015. Photo by Midya McPhearson.

APR 13 (UPDATED APR 15) — Early Maryland primary voting started Thursday, April 14.

At least early voters know where to go. Primary day voters in Takoma Park’s 13-67 precinct may not.

The 13-67 precinct is gone, merged with precinct 13-68 and assigned to a different polling place. The merged precincts occupy the southern tip and eastern side of the city. The county’s mailed notification informing voters of the change has not been widely noted.

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13-67 precinct resident Jean Capps did notice after searching in vain for her precinct information online. She was concerned about the increased distance to the new polling station.

The merged precinct’s polling station for both primary and general election days (but not for early voting) is Takoma Park Recreation Center, 7315 New Hampshire Ave. The former precinct 13-67 voting place, Grace Methodist Church at 7001 New Hampshire Ave., will not be used.

“There is a good chance the new location will be inconvenient for anyone without a car. I am not sure that public transportation from the neighborhoods furthest from the polling place will be very good. I could be a very long walk,” she said.

Capps said “Turnout will be very important in this election because it will determine the candidates for several open offices. Since two precincts will be combined, it is possible the lines could be long, especially at peak periods. Every vote counts and we need to make sure that everyone knows the right place to go.”

Mayor Kate Stewart is one of those affected by the merge, but she apparently has been moved to precinct 13-06. She said her previous polling place was Grace Methodist Church, but is now Piney Branch Elementary School.

Stewart lives on Elm Street. The state’s online polling place locator indicates that on her block the homes on the east side of the street (odd numbers) are now in 13-68 and those on the west side (even numbers) are in 13-06.

Takoma Park is a stronghold for at least a couple of candidates in tight races. State senator and city resident Jamie Raskin is running for US Congress and Chris Van Hollen, whose seat Raskin seeks to fill, is running for US Senate.

 A county board of elections staff person did not know the definitive reason for the merger. She said that in general the county prefers to use public buildings as polling stations. One or both precincts may have had low voter registration, or perhaps there were difficulties or complaints about the church location.

With two precincts merged into one there are now four state voting precincts n Takoma Park, each with its own voting place.

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The county’s new precinct map shows the merged precinct 13-68 which now votes at Takoma Park Recreation Center, 7315 New Hampshire Ave. 13-04 votes at Takoma Park Elementary School, 7511 Holly Ave Takoma Park MD 20912, 13-21 at Takoma Park Middle School, 7611 Piney Branch Rd Silver Spring MD 20910, and 13-06 at Piney Branch Elementary School, 7510 Maple Ave Takoma Park MD 20912. Those are Primary Day and Election Day voting only. Early voting is at the Silver Spring Civic Building.

The early voting polling place closest to Takoma Park, MD is the Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring, MD at the corner of Fenton and and Ellsworth in downtown.

There are nine other early voting locations. Montgomery County’s board of elections site lists them on their comprehensive election website, www.777vote.org.

Early primary election voting runs from April 14 to April 21, from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Early voting offers a chance to register to vote on the same day. Otherwise the deadline for voter registration in the primary has passed. To register at an early voting station residents should bring a Maryland MVA ID or other proof of residence. Eleven days following the primary, residents can register for the general election in November – up until 21 days prior to that election day.

17 year olds who will be 18 by the general election (November 8, 2016) can vote in the primary election.

Absentee ballots can be requested at any time.

Beginning with this primary election, the state will use paper ballots. Finished ballots will be scanned, tabulated and secured in a ballot box. At least one touchscreen ballot device will be available at each polling place for disabled people. It has large-print, high contrast, braille and audio capabilities. Disabled voters also have the option  to use an online ballot system.

View and download a voter guide and sample ballot:

The county Board of Elections can be contacted via their website, www.777vote.org, via phone at  240-777-VOTE (8683), and by email at elections@montgomerycountymd.gov.

The board is also on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram at 777vote. The Maryland State Board of Elections number is 800-222-VOTE (8683) or visit their website at elections.maryland.gov.