July 23, 2020

By: Suzanne Pollack

Read the full article here.

The Maryland federal delegation is calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to send out mail in ballots to all registered voters prior to the November general election and to reconsider his directive to open all polling locations.

During his press conference July 22, Hogan said the upcoming election will “be an all-of-the-above election with the most choices possible.” All registered voters will receive applications to apply for ballots to be mailed in. If they choose not to vote by mail, they can participate in early voting or cast their ballot on the actual day, he said.

Hogan said during the press conference, “Maryland is one of only 14 states in the entire nation to mail ballots or applications to all registered voters. I will be strongly encouraging Marylanders to vote by mail, and I’m calling on the leaders of both parties to stop all the political nonsense and to join me in encouraging people to vote and make sure everyone has the chance to vote on election day whichever way they choose.”

But federal legislators criticized Hogan, saying he plans to send out only ballot applications, which voters must fill out and return in order to receive a ballot by mail.

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Congressmembers Steny Hoger, Jamie Raskin, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Anthony Brown, David Trone and Kweisi Mfume sent a letter to Hogan calling on him to reconsider his directives in light of the global pandemic.

“Under Governor Hogan’s announced plan, all in-person voting locations will be open and voters would have to request an absentee ballot through the Board of Elections to vote by mail. While they agree that limited polling locations should be available for Marylanders needing to vote in-person, the Delegation is concerned that there are not enough resources to sufficiently open and staff all polling locations safely.

“We call on you to rescind the directive and issue new guidance designed to maximize both safety and voter participation by mailing ballots for the general election to all registered voters, as was done in the primary,” the federal legislators wrote.

“This decision inherently introduces numerous new choke points that could lead to voters being disenfranchised,” continued the lawmakers. “We fully expect that mail-in ballots will again result in a larger number of voters in the November election and could set record levels of voter turnout.”

During a July 23 Maryland Board of Elections meeting, several members and other officials expressed concern that there will not be enough judges to staff all the polling places and that if polling places are consolidated, voters may be confused and go to the wrong place.

Currently, there is a 35 percent vacancy rate for election judges statewide, which means another 14,000 judges are needed in a time when some election volunteers are fearful of getting COVID-19 if they work on election day, according to BOE members.

Board members unanimously voted to purchase return envolopes with prepaid postage for voters, even though, “We do not currently have money in our budget to do this,” said Nikki Charlson, deputy administrator at the state BOE. The board will ask Hogan to allocate funds for this, they said.