Republican Representatives of Maryland’s Montgomery County have been accused of voter suppression by Democratic reps and Maryland state lawmakers.
Montgomery County Republican elections board members voted to close two early voting sites, located in Chevy Chase and Burtonsville, and open new ones in Brookeville and Potomac. According to James Shalleck, the Republican chairman of the elections board, the goal was to add “geographic diversity” to the equation.
But “geographic diversity” may not have necessarily been achieved when comparing 2010 Census data for the respective towns:
White: 86.7 percent
Black: 4.8 percent
American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.2 percent
Asian: 4.3 percent
Hispanic/Latino: 5.5 percent
White: 33.3 percent
Black: 38.3 percent
American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.3 percent
Asian: 20.4 percent
Hispanic/Latino: 8.9 percent
White: 81.5 percent
Black: 8.6 percent
American Indian/Alaska Native: .3 percent
Asian: 3.9 percent
Hispanic/Latino: 7.3 percent
White: 75.8 percent
Black: 4.6 percent
American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.1 percent
Asian: 15.9 percent
Hispanic/Latino: 6.4 percent
Chevy Chase, Brookeville and Potomac share a similar percentage when it comes to their white population, with all three maintaining at least more than 75 percent whites. Of the three, Brookville has the highest percentage of Blacks and Latinos, and Potomac the highest percentage of Asians. Chevy Chase, one of the two losing its early-voting site, stands as the least diverse town of the group.
However, Burtonsville, the most racially diverse town of the four (as well as the county’s town with the most minority voters), is number two to be eliminated. Not only is Burtonsville the only town that does not have a majority-white population, it also has more than quadruple the percent of Blacks as Brookville, as well as the highest population of Asians and Latinos. And early voters in Burtonsville are definitely active; Burtonsville had the second highest number of early voters in the county.
An article posted on The Seventh State gave information regarding the racial makeup of each town as well, and the percentages were similar to those found in the Census report. The Seventh State also provided median income data for each town and reported the lowest income was seen in Burtonsville, pegged at $127,111. While Chevy Chase maintained the second highest at $189,879 and Brookeville saw just $143,685 in comparison, Potomac had a significantly higher income than the other three towns: $256,851.
This controversy has not been seen in any other counties yet, according to state Democratic Party Executive Director Pat Murray. However, other counties should take the dilemma in Montgomery as a warning.
“A big point of importance is to put the other 23 jurisdictions on notice that this will be under the microscope and will be challenged where it occurs,” he said.
According to State Sen. Richard Madeleno (D), the Republican board members can settle the issue by abandoning their plans to close the sites in Burtonsville and Chevy Chase. If no action is taken, the Democrats plan to pass an emergency legislation to add additional early voting sites and ultimately reverse the effect of the closures. The issue will go to the state election board, which will meet on Oct. 15.