Schaefer Center for Public Policy training judges for Election Day

By Andrew R. Koch

Last spring, the University of Baltimore’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy trained 2,000 judges to man polling stations throughout Baltimore for the Maryland Primaries in June. Another round of training sessions is underway to prepare judges for the Nov. 4 general election.

Election Judge training started on Sept. 19 and will continue through Sept. 27 in the Thumel Business Center. Training will continue between Oct. 1 and Oct. 9 at Winston Middle School on Winston Avenue in Northeast Baltimore. The program is under the direction of Government and Public Policy Professor John Willis (who was Maryland Secretary of State from 1995-2003), and will consist of three three-hour training sessions each day. The Schaefer Center election judges will be working in six early voting centers between Oct. 23 and Oct. 30, and 296 more voting centers on Election Day. Dr. Ann Cotten, Director of the Schaefer Center, says there’s only a limited amount of time to get all the election judges trained ahead of Election Day.

“Total, we’ll be training about 2,400 people in the next couple weeks, so it’s a very short window, so we have to be very efficient with our time and resources,” Dr. Cotten said.

She added that after all the election judge trainees are brought together for a presentation and lecture about election law, they’ll then break out into classrooms of about 25 people each. In the classrooms, trainees will get to do hands-on training to learn how to set up and then use the polling machines and poll books in what Dr. Cotten calls “a good opportunity” to do a run-through of what it’ll be like on Election Day.

Election Judges are selected by the Baltimore City Board of Elections. Dr. Cotten explained that the Board of Elections requires a mix of judges from both major political parties. The Schaefer Center’s responsibility is to register and train the judges. The center features both a 20-station call center and an online training system for election judges.

“By bringing these assets of the Schaefer Center to bear, we can more efficiently run election judge training,” Dr. Cotten said.

The Schaefer Center has been hold- ing training for election judges since 2006. While Dr. Cotten said elections in the city have gone smoothly since then, the Schaefer Center didn’t start offering election judge training until after what Professor Willis described as a “disastrous” primary election in 2006.

“Almost 25 or 30 percent of the precincts opened late. They (the election workers) didn’t know how to use some of the new equipment. They had just a whole spate of problems in the 2006 primary,” Willis said, who’s also a Schaefer Center Faculty Fellow.

“We were asked by the state and the city Election Board to start providing training for the Baltimore City election judges.”

After that primary, Willis said the Schaefer Center trained more than 3,000 election workers in 22 days ahead of the 2006 general election. He said the call center was even used to give election judges reminder calls to show up to work at their assigned polling places on Election Day.

“We went from a situation where the city had a very bad experience with elections to where now, we have 294 precincts; 98 percent of them are opening on time. The error rates have gone down significantly,” Willis said.

“You rarely hear about a complaint in Baltimore City like you do in other larger jurisdictions about how the election has been administered.”

According to Dr. Cotten, 86 percent of election judges are returning, and they come back to get updates on changes in election regulations. Professor Willis says that as a result of the training, the average age of election judges has fallen by about a decade to around 60, indicating that younger people are getting involved in the election process as judges. However, he says most of the election judges in the city are still seniors in their 60s and 70s.

New Home for Schaefer Center for Public Policy Dedicated to Kick Off 30th Anniversary Celebration

By Andrew R. Koch

The University of Baltimore’s Center for Public Policy, named for one of the most colorful characters in Maryland political history, now has a home of its own.

The Schaefer Center for Public Policy, part of the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Public Policy, will be celebrating its 30th anniversary next spring. On April 10, a dedication ceremony was held at the new home for the Schaefer Center at 5 West Chase Street. The center has been operating out of the building since November of last year.

The center is named for the late William Donald Schaefer, who was the mayor of Baltimore from 1971 to 1987, and then Governor of Maryland from 1987 to 1995 (he was known as “The Mayor of Maryland”), and Comptroller from 1999 to 2007. Schaefer graduated from UB’s Law School in 1942. He was at times a controversial figure because of his push to revitalize Baltimore during his four-term tenure as Mayor; he was known for playing hardball to fund housing, transportation and development projects. One of his biggest accomplishments as Mayor was Harborplace, the pavilion of shops and restaurants on the Inner Harbor along Pratt Street. As Governor, he saw Oriole Park at Camden Yards—a project he pushed as Mayor—come to fruition. The Center has displayed pictures of him looking over the completed ballpark as well as throwing out the first pitch at the Orioles’ home opener in 1992.

Schaefer Center Director Dr. Ann Cotten says Schaefer led by example in promoting good government.

“His life was all about public service, 50, 60 years of nothing but dedication to service, efficiency in government, making sure that government worked for the people, and that was pretty much his legacy,” Dr. Cotten said.

The center used to be housed on the fifth floor of the Liberal Arts and Public Policy Building on West Preston Street. Dr. Cotton says when the Center for Children, Family and Courts moved into the Angelos Law Building as part of the university’s expansion, that freed up space for the Schaefer Center to move into its new home. Graduate Fellows Elena Timusheva and Elise Major-Whiteford both say it’s great for the center to have its own place for all its stuff, as well as to make it more visible.

“We have our own building where we can put our sign, and it’s better for the marketability and visibility for the center […] We have our own building, people can come in, and they know the Schaefer Center is here,” Timusheva said.

“We’re closer. We’re kind of embedded in the community,” Major-Whiteford added.

The new Schaefer Center includes a call center for phone research surveys on public policy issues are conducted. Recent projects include a survey of drivers for the State Highway Administration. Other recent projects the center has worked on include a voter access study for the Maryland General Assembly, and training for election judges, including more than 3,000 in Baltimore City. Other projects the center is working on include wait times for voters and looking into the feasibility of early voting on Sundays.