College Park Council wants to explore the option of opening polls on Election Day at 7 a.m. instead of the current 11 a.m., hoping it will cut down on confusion and encourage voter turnout.
Although Chief of the Board of Election Supervisors , he offered to study the costs associated with the adjustment. It was an option he explored on Election Day in 2009 with a survey, asking voters at the polls if they were satisfied with the current polling hours.
Of the survey respondents, 84.5 percent said they were satisfied with the polling hours from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. But Councilman (Dist. 3), who did not run for re-election this year, said the study wasn’t reliable, because those who were at the polls between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. were the ones responding.
“The study we did before was a bit comical,” Cook said at Tuesday’s Mayor and Council worksession. “I think this council needs to stand up and take action … are we going to be for participatory democracy?”
He said some voters can't make it to the polls after 11 a.m. because of work.
But Robson said the later polling start time is not restricting votes. Although 7.7 percent of registered voters in College Park turned out to vote citywide, Robson asked council to consider the turnout in the competitive districts.
In District 1, where challenged incumbents and , 14.7 percent of . In District 3, and ran against incumbent , and to fill another seat left vacant by Cook. There, turnout was 10.66 percent.
Look at Laurel’s election this month, Robson said, where contested mayoral and council-member-at-large races brought out 13.4 percent of the vote.
“We don’t do badly at all,” Robson said. “Early voting does not increase voting. It may shift it, but it doesn’t increase it.”
But the council wasn’t completely convinced.
Even just a small difference in turnout could have impacted the results of the election, Councilman (Dist. 2) said.
“Maybe Fazul [Kabir] wins by more. Maybe Chris [Nagle] wins,” he said. .
Council was also concerned the late start confuses voters, .
Wojahn and Nagle both said they spoke with voters who showed up at the polls early, unaware of the 11 a.m. start time.
Robson said that if the hours were extended, election supervisors will need to be paid for more hours of work, and they might not want to count votes at the end of the longer day. Currently, the board counts votes by hand, first in an informal, preliminary count after the polls close, and then in a final count the next afternoon. The board might then suggest an electronic vote counter, he said.
Robson said he will investigate such costs.
This story has been corrected. The original version described the District 3 race inaccurately, when in fact three candidates were running for two seats. We regret the error.