Marylander voters will likely find out Friday how the voting process for the November general election will look, including the number of polling places available for in-person voting and drop-off locations.
The state Board of Elections has planned an emergency meeting Friday to determine whether to send absentee ballots to all of Maryland’s estimated four million voters or by request only. The board also aims to decide if the state’s 24 jurisdictions can add two extra early-voting precincts, or use the idea presented by the Maryland Association of Election Officials to house voting sites at the state’s 282 high schools.
However, Gov. Larry Hogan demanded in a letter Thursday to Linda Lamone, the board’s administrator, to immediately mail out absentee ballot applications based on a request he made last month, followed by recruiting and training for election judges.
The board noted the state anticipates fewer than 4,000 election judges and four sites for early voting. When Election Day arrives on Nov. 3, nearly 11,000 judges and 99 sites may not be available.
Hogan’s administration continues to recruit state employees to help volunteer as election judges. The governor also requests the state open “a sufficient amount number of polling places” on Election Day.
“I have no plans to interfere in your conduct of the November election,” Hogan wrote in the letter. “Under existing state law, you have the authority and responsibility to manage and run a free and fair election. While you have emergency powers at your disposal to consolidate precincts and modify deadlines, I strongly advise against wholesale closures of polling places that could disenfranchise Marylanders.”
Eight Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Hogan and the elections board Thursday with demands of their own, calling for absentee ballots to be mailed to every voter “rather than mere applications,” and the opening of at least 90 voting centers statewide, versus nearly 1,850 neighborhood precincts.
Maryland voters received absentee ballots during the June 2 primary due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As of Thursday, the state currently has 93,00 confirmed cases and 3,415 deaths.
The lawmakers who sent the letter are Dels. Heather Bagnall, Regina Boyce, Julian Ivey, Kirill Reznik and Ron Watson, and state Sens. Joanne C. Benson, Jill Carter and Mary Washington.
“In the context of the global coronavirus pandemic, not sending ballots to every registered voter is a form of voter suppression,” the lawmakers’ letter stated. “The reality is that, while there were issues with the administration of the June primary, it was a success, in terms of overall turnout.”
Maryland election officials said in June nearly 1.5 million voters, or 41%, participated in the special election in the 7th Congressional District and presidential primary elections that occurred within six weeks.
Election data shows the June 2 primary had the second-highest turnout since 1998 at 41%.
The two majority-Black jurisdictions of Prince George’s County and Baltimore City recorded an increase in voter turnout from the 2016 primary at 9% and 3%, respectively.
Of the 521,877 ballots mailed in Prince George’s, about 231,711 were returned by mail or in drop boxes, according to county data.
About 8,880 voted in person and 289 conducted same-day registrations.
About 46% of county residents voted in the June primary, the highest figure since 48% voted in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary when Barack Obama was first elected.