Answering Commissioner Foster

The Banner welcomes readers’ opinions on topics of public interest.

By Barbara Knepp

The city election for Cambridge is now seven weeks away. Are you ready to vote on Oct. 17.
• Are you registered to vote?
• If you moved in the last year, have you updated your address with the Dorchester County Board of Elections?
What’s your plan?
• Do you plan to mail in your ballot?
• Do you plan to drop it off at a secure drop off box?
• Do you plan to hand deliver it to the Post Office?
• Do you plan to vote in person at Chesapeake College?
I have made a commitment to fact checking any information that I come across that in any way pushes a false narrative about our city election. This is my second response to Commissioner LaShon Foster. Commissioner Foster is currently the Ward 3 commissioner and is running for mayor of Cambridge.
On July 16 Commissioner Foster submitted the following response to Commissioner Rideout’s July 15 Banner article. Here are her concerns followed by my explanations.
Commissioner Foster: “Your ballot will sit unsecured in a post office box open to all employees from the day you mail it to election day.”
— What? That’s not how it works at all. Nobody can just go to the Post Office and start rifling through the mail, especially when they keep all ballots in special bags that are tagged and locked up in metal boxes. The keys will be kept in a secure place. These ideas are taken right from the “suppress the vote” playbook.

Commissioner Foster: “There will be no checks and balances as to who has mailed one in and who has not.”
— Ridiculous. Each ballot has a unique bar code that can be traced to your name and address. This information will be provided to the election service company by our very own Dorchester County Board of Elections staff. It is up to each registered voter to make sure that the Board of Elections has your up to date address. This must be updated no later than 21 days before the Oct. 17 election. Once the ballot is received, it is photographed and the unique bar code is recorded and your ballot is confirmed as received.
Commissioner Foster: “Therefore, even if you mailed a ballot in, you can still go vote in person. Since they are not checking or securing the mail in votes, you can vote twice.”
— Well, of course you can still vote in person. You are permitted to change your mind. If this is the case, you simply show up on election day with all of the necessary identification. They will pull up your scanned mail-in ballot. You will most likely be required to sign something that states that the mail in ballot is void and now you want to vote in person. Only one ballot will be counted, not two.

Commissioner Foster: “If you vote in person and mail in a ballot, they say only your last vote will count, but the mail-in ballot will be the last, kicking out the first.”
— This statement makes no sense at all. See Above.
Commissioner Foster: “If you dispute a mail-in ballot that does not belong to you, there is no signature verification to support your claim.”
— First of all, under what conditions would you be disputing a mail in ballot that does not belong to you? Again, each ballot has a unique bar code that has been assigned to you. If there is any need to verify a signature, the County Board of Elections has those on file. The election judges may challenge any ballot that they consider suspicions. They can ask for verification at any time, including signature verification if necessary.

Commissioner Foster: “If your ballot gets lost in the mail you will never know. There is no accountability at all on who has or who has not submitted a mail-in ballot.”
— Every voter has to accept some responsibility. If you have not received a ballot, pick up the phone and make a request. Your request will be recorded. The election company tracks every request for a ballot. You can call them and request 20 ballots, but each time you do that they record the request and void any previous requests. A computer will automatically reject any voided ballots. If you forget to mail in your ballot or you wait until the last minute and it is not received on time, it will not be counted. The message here is: Mail in your ballot as soon as you receive it. If you are concerned that your ballot has not been received, I would suggest that you contact the city manager. He is committed to conducting a fair and honest election.

Commissioner Foster: “The fact that we are all human, subjects us all to fallacy — yes, even the postal worker can commit a crime. It has been done and will continue to be done.”
— First of all, the definition of fallacy is a “lie”. So to say that all humans are subject to lies is to say that all humans are subject to weather. If you are accusing someone of lying, then say so. Yes, a postal worker, or policeman, or even a city commissioner can commit a crime. What’s your point? I think what you are saying is that our postal workers are potentially criminals.

Commissioner Foster: “Mr. Rideout pointed out that people committing voter fraud can go to jail, if caught. Eliminate the areas that make this city election vulnerable to fraud.”
— Mr. Rideout is correct. Anyone who commits voter fraud or mail fraud will go to jail. It is a federal offense punishable with a fine and imprisonment up to 20 years. I suppose there are some people willing to take that chance. But the logistics of influencing an election makes it quite a daunting task.
“Possible solutions”

Commissioner Foster: “Void out a ballot that someone reports stolen or misplaced. Give them a new number instead if the same number reported missing. When you count votes, you will know to void the one reported stolen.”
— They do all of that. If you had reviewed the packet from True Ballot and paid attention at the meeting, you would know this.

Commissioner Foster: “Secure our ballots once mailed in. Take them from the post office and let the election judges lock them up and hold the key. Our county election office takes our ballots once mailed in, documents the address and number, puts them in a secure locked box. Open to no one but their appointed staff.”
— Take these concerns to the Post Master General. They have a process for handling the ballots. The election company also has a process. There are countless articles as well as YouTube videos that document the mail in ballot process. Five U.S. states have what is commonly referred to as permanent automatic all-mail elections. The United States Military has been using automatic mail in voting since the civil war in the 1860s.
Commissioner Foster: Our county election board will not conduct or oversee this election, it will be done by an outside company with little experience in conducting municipal elections.
— The company has 25 years experience and thousands of elections under their belt. In fact, some of their elections are far more complicated than a municipal election. I assure you, and I’m sure anyone who has ever been part of a union, an election for a teachers’ union, police union, steel workers’ union, or any trade union can be brutal. These folks have conducted thousands of these. They know what they are doing.

Commissioner Foster: Our city lawyer stated that Cambridge does not have to follow our state election laws.
— This is true. The Cambridge Charter states that the city manager is the official supervisor of elections. Maryland State Election Law does not apply to the City of Cambridge election.
Commissioner Foster: Our city manager has a job to do by correcting these issues before the election. It is not too late for the city manager to add in the measures to secure this election. Call him, email him, voice your opinion at the city meetings.
— If you have any concerns, contact the City Manager, Patrick Comiskey at 410-228-4020, or email him at: pcomiskey@choosecambridge.com Mr. Comiskey is very accessible and has always been able to answer my questions.
Commissioner Foster continues to plant seeds of doubt in our election process. Her constant cries of voter suppression and ballot tampering do absolutely nothing to help people feel good about voting.
The author lives in Ward 3.