As hundreds of thousands of Maryland voters received their presidential primary election ballots, the state board of elections plans to begin counting them Thursday.
The board posted a notice last week on its social media pages letting voters who still haven’t received a ballot know they are being processed by the U.S. Postal Service and will arrive soon.
As of Sunday, May 17, about 330,000 voters in Baltimore still haven’t received ballots, which may arrive as late as Saturday, May 23.
That’s why Margaret White doesn’t trust the state’s first election to be conducted primarily by mail. White, who receives mail with a Capitol Heights address, has resided in the unincorporated Millwood-Waterford neighborhood since 1964 near the incorporated city of District Heights.
“I think it is a good way to cause a lot of fraud,” White said about mailing ballots. “I prefer going to the polls and that’s what I’m going to do on Election Day.”
State officials rescheduled the primary election back from April 28 to June 2 because of the novel coronavirus pandemic with more than 40,000 confirmed cases in the state. Prince George’s County leads the state exceeding 12,000 cases.
Even with the rising cases, state officials will allow for limited in-person voting at 57 sites throughout the state. It’s anticipated fewer than 10 poll workers will work or volunteer at vote centers and must adhere to social distance guidelines.
Prince George’s voters can either vote or return ballots to these four places: Bowie Gymnasium, College Park Community Center, Kentland Community Center in Landover and Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex in Fort Washington.
Voters who didn’t receive a ballot in the mail, are unable to mail their ballot, or need special assistance, can vote on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Voters can also drop off ballots inside a box placed outside those locations and at the county’s Board of Elections office in Largo. All ballots can be dropped off by 8 p.m. through June 2. Mailed ballots must be postmarked no later than June 2.
When Grace Pearson Waters of Upper Marlboro received her election ballot, it showed the original April 28 date. An explanation states the date couldn’t be changed “due to insufficient time to reprint the ballots after the presidential primary election date was changed … due to the coronavirus.”
However, she joined 90,000 other county residents who received those instructions in Spanish. She eventually got an English version last week.
The majority-Black jurisdiction was the only locale affected.
“Just like anything else, it will take some time getting used to voting by mail,” she said. “[State election officials] need to let people know and tell them in different ways because some people may not know about the June 2 extension. Voting is important. People fought and died for that right.”
State lawmakers agree.
The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs and House Ways and Means committees held a recent joint virtual briefing with election officials with an update on the primary election.
Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) asked how much is planned to be spent on voter education.
Linda Lamone, administrator for the board of elections, said about $1.3 million, including for ad placement in local newspapers and for a public relations consultant to handle the logistics in voter outreach.
State Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-District 22) of University Park said that amount may not be enough.
“It’s a culture change for a lot of people,” said Pinsky, who chairs the Senate’s education and health committee. “More money could assist in getting the message out deeper and broader.”