Maryland elections officials can begin counting mail-in ballots as early as Saturday. The Court of Special Appeals denied Thursday Del. Dan Cox’s request for a stay of a lower court’s order. Cox, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, had appealed the ruling by Montgomery County Circuit Judge James Bonifant allowing the count to begin.
Under state law, elections officials can not begin counting mail-in ballots until two days after the election. Maryland is the only state in the nation with such a requirement.
The State Board of Elections filed a petition to start counting mail-in ballots Oct. 1 after elections workers were swamped with mail-in ballots in the July 19 primary, delaying the posting of results in some jurisdictions by as much as 36 days. Lawyers for the board argued last week that those delays and worse would be likely in November if the count couldn’t begin early.
Judge Bonifant ruled in the board’s favor last Friday and Cox appealed Tuesday, asking for an expedited hearing and a stay of the lower court’s order.
In his appeal, Cox argued that only the legislature has the power to delay ballot counting. Though the law leaves room for a court to step in in an emergency, he said this is not an emergency.
At about the same time the court was issuing its ruling top Maryland Democrats were pushing for a quick answer to the question of when mail-in ballots could be counted.
Sen. Cheryl Kagan, of Montgomery County, called on the court to “dispense” with Cox’s appeal, calling it frivolous.
“And, frankly, he’s got so little campaign money that this is about getting free press,” she said. “This is about getting on TV having this conversation. And it’s ridiculous, frankly.”
Kagan was the lead sponsor during the last General Assembly session of a bill that would have allowed early counting of mail-in ballots. Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed the bill.
She said in a news conference at state party headquarters in Annapolis Thursday, that the requirement to wait until after election day to begin counting mail in ballots could mean it would be weeks before the election is settled.
“We deserve to know either on election night or very soon after, who our winners, who our leaders are going to be,” she said, tying Cox, a 2020 election denier to the former President. “With Donald Trump and Dan Cox raising doubts about the accuracy of our elections, the sanctity of our system, we cannot afford to have delays like that.”
A spokeswoman for Cox’s campaign failed to respond to a request for comment.