Amid an ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued a directive Wednesday for in-person voting in November.
According to a letter to the state Board of Elections, the governor also instructed the office to provide mail-in options that will include voters to receive absentee ballots by mail and vote during off-peak times.
“While I know you have been inundated with suggestions from political leaders in both parties and special interest groups to change the electoral process, this discussion should not be subject to undue partisanship or political influence,” Hogan wrote to the board. “Providing citizens with accessible, accountable, and transparent ways to cast their ballot is an essential component of our democratic republic and your primary responsibility.”
However, some of the support has come from party lines that started with the recent state board’s 3-2 decision.
Republican board Chair Michael R. Cogan and his colleagues Kelley Howells and William Voelp voted on an option for “extensive in-person voting” and mail-in ballots with adding more voting centers.
The Democrats, Vice Chair Patrick J. Hogan and Malcolm Funn chose a strictly mail-in voting process as the safest way during the COVID-19 crisis and provides more opportunities for people to vote.
Leading state Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocates pressed for a majority mail-in process, or a hybrid model.
Senate Republicans disagreed, due to problems of a primarily mail-in June 2 presidential primary where some voters didn’t receive ballots and some precincts experienced long lines for several hours.
Meanwhile, Hogan’s order requests the state institute these provisions for the November general election:
– Open every early voting center and polling stations on Election Day.
– Promptly send absentee ballot applications for every voter who may decide to cast by mail.
– Encourage state employees to supplement election staffing needs and provide necessary personal protective equipment for staff and volunteers.
“The fundamental responsibility of the State Board of Elections is to conduct free and fair elections in a manner that facilitates maximum voter participation,” Hogan wrote. “This approach, which is already fully authorized by existing state law, will maximize participation in the November election by offering voters more options while minimizing confusion and risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Some lawmakers expressed Hogan’s decision on social media.
“This is unacceptable. Every voter should be mailed their ballot,” Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery County) tweeted Wednesday.