Smith Islanders get the attention of lawmakers, fight for access to in-person voting
SMITH ISLAND, Md. – As it stands now, Smith Island residents will have to take a boat to Crisfield if they want to vote in person this November. This comes after the Somerset County Board of Elections approved three voting centers, all of which are on the mainland. However, many are hoping this situation changes since local, state and federal officials have all joined an effort to get the county to reconsider.
“We’ve contacted the Somerset County Board of Elections, the State Board of Elections, Mary Beth Carozza’s office, Charles Otto’s office,” says Pastor Everett Landon, a Smith Island resident. “Even though on paper we can go vote in person on Election Day, it is so ridiculously complex.”
Smith Island residents like Pastor Everett Landon have gotten the attention of their elected officials and it’s all part of their fight for accessible in-person voting on Election Day.
“Had they not contacted us at the county, state and federal level we would not be aware of the impact of this. And now that we’ve heard their voice, we are absolutely supporting their request,” says Maryland State Senator Mary Beth Carozza.
“We say we want to have the option to either do absentee ballots, early voting or walk-in voting just like everyone else,” says Landon.
Islanders say mother nature, medical concerns, being able to afford a ferry ticket and even losing a day’s paycheck are all obstacles for people who want the option of voting in person this November.
“All these guys that are watermen, they’re going to have to take a whole entire day off. They’ve only got so many days a year where they can work anyway,” says Darren Jones, a Smith Island resident and owner of Smith Island Bakery.
But as they advocate for the situation to change, they’re also suggesting their own solutions. One resident, who has FBI clearance from a previous job, is offering to hand deliver mail in ballots. “I said hey what about if I collect everybody’s ballots and take them up to the voting headquarters,” says Sally Tyler, a resident of Tylerton.
Meanwhile, a Crisfield resident says he’ll personally charter people who want to vote in person. “Some people are too old or can’t afford it. So I stepped up and said I would do it for free,” says David Barone.
Senator Mary Beth Carozza says she expects some follow up conversations will be had at the county level now that local, state and even federal lawmakers are aware of the situation. “In my mind, this is about fair and free elections. It’s about allowing the Smith Island residents to have a right that every Marylander has across the state,” says Carozza.
The Somerset County Board of Elections apparently has a meeting in the middle of September but it’s not clear if and when they’ll discuss the possibility of a voting center on Smith Island.
Congressman Andy Harris issued the following statement in regards to this situation, “Governor Hogan has made it clear that each Marylander should have the option to vote in person in the federal election this fall. Smith Island is remote and requires paid ferry service to the mainland, where Somerset County will have a polling location. Given the costs of travel and unpredictability of weather that could impede getting to the mainland, my constituents on Smith Island who wish to vote in person could very well be disenfranchised of their Constitutional right on election day. I urge the Somerset County Board of Elections to rectify this situation.”