**FILE** A drop-off ballot box in May outside Prince George's County Board of Elections office in Largo, Maryland (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
**FILE** A drop-off ballot box in May outside Prince George's County Board of Elections office in Largo, Maryland (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Diana Bullock always voted in person, but this year’s coronavirus pandemic and challenges with her health forced the Landover resident to mail an absentee ballot during the June presidential primary election.

Bullock, president of the Columbia Park Civic Association, plans to do the same routine for the upcoming Nov. 3 general election. This time she must request an application to receive a ballot vote by mail.

“I already applied for my ballot. You have to be ahead of the game,” she said. “I vote every time, especially for this year because I have to get [President Donald] Trump out that White House.”

State and local election officials continue to urge voters to cast ballots by mail due to the ongoing health pandemic.

Voting pleas are a bit louder in Prince George’s because the majority-Black jurisdiction continues to lead the state of Maryland with more than 25,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Gov. Larry Hogan originally wanted a traditional election with more than four million voters to cast ballots at 1,800 precincts in various neighborhoods statewide.

However, he issued a proclamation Aug. 10 based on the state Board of Elections recommendation to incorporate about 360 voting centers that will allow voters to cast ballots at any voting location within their respective jurisdictions.

This will be the first time Maryland conducts an election in this format.

Hogan also requested election officials to immediately send absentee ballot applications for voters.

Some Democratic lawmakers and advocates want the Republican governor to eliminate the application process and just mail the ballots, a procedure done for the primary election.

“That’s straight-up voter suppression,” said Amity Pope, a local activist and president of Our Prince George’s.

Pope and other members of the PG Change Makers Coalition are pushing a letter-writing campaign asking residents to send emails and letters to Hogan, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and other state officials to just mail the ballots.

“Sending applications is a two-step process which requires more time and more money,” said Monica Roebuck, a member of the county’s Board of Elections and representative of a statewide voter protection and engagement committee. “I highly recommend everybody vote by mail. That is going to be your safest and easiest way to cast your ballot.”

In the meantime, Prince George’s voters can also request a mail-in ballot by texting “VBM” to 77788. Voters can also go online at https://bit.ly/3ae5iBD.

Voters can still cast ballots in person at 11 sites in the county during the early voting period from Oct. 26-Nov. 2.

Because high schools will open as polling places Nov. 3 on Election Day, Prince George’s voters can choose from 29 high schools to cast a ballot. It’s estimated about 30 election judges are needed at each high school, but the county could experience a 15% decrease in judges because most are senior citizens who aren’t planning to work at the polls.

Elections Administrator Alisha Alexander summarized a proposal during an election board meeting last week to provide an additional $100 in “hazard pay” for training and work as an election judge and chief judge.

Besides the presidential race between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, several high-profile local races are also on the ballot, including for county school board and Circuit Court judge.

To encourage voter turnout, education and overall election excitement, the county’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference is organizing a “Soles to the Polls” campaign.

Josephine Mourning, president of the Prince George’s SCLC chapter, said a caravan will drive through various neighborhoods on Aug. 28, the same day civil rights leaders will participate in the “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” march and rally in Washington.

“We’re going to concentrate on going through our areas that had low voter turnout,” she said. “We’re going to be talking as we go through the community on our bullhorns telling people to get out to vote.”

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Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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