ANNAPOLIS — With 118 days until the November general election, Governor Larry Hogan directed the State Board of Elections to follow existing state law and conduct the election with enhanced voting options including opening all in person polling locations, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Every early voting center should be open and every polling location should be open on Election Day to accommodate anyone who wishes to cast their ballot safely and in person.
- To ensure that every Marylander who wants to vote by mail can vote by mail, SBE should promptly send out an absentee ballot request application to every eligible Maryland voter.
- Every effort should be made to promote early voting, absentee voting by mail, and voting at off-peak times as safe and efficient options.
“The fundamental responsibility of the State Board of Elections is to conduct free and fair elections in a manner that facilitates maximum voter participation,” wrote Governor Hogan. “This approach—which is already fully authorized by existing state law—will maximize participation in the November election by offering voters more options while minimizing confusion and risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In addition, the governor informed SBE that the state will encourage state employees to help supplement election staffing needs, and provide any necessary personal protective equipment (PPE).
Polling places should follow CDC guidelines and public health protocols, and stress the importance of proper sanitization, physical distancing, and face coverings.
The governor urged the Board to avoid a politicized process as it moves forward.
“While I know you have been inundated with suggestions from political leaders in both parties and special interest groups to change the electoral process, this discussion should not be subject to undue partisanship or political influence,” wrote Governor Hogan. “Providing citizens with accessible, accountable, and transparent ways to cast their ballot is an essential component of our democratic republic and your primary responsibility.”
Shortly after Hogan's announcement, the Board of Elections responded.
“The Board will move forward with plans for a traditional general election on November 3rd and will expand efforts to promote voting by mail, early voting, and voting at off-peak times. The Board will continue to work closely with local boards of elections, stakeholders, and the general public to conduct a safe and accessible general election.”
Amy Cruice, Director of the ACLU of Maryland's Election Protection Campaign:
“There is good reason to fear that Governor Larry Hogan's plan for the General Election will cause confusion that will lead to Marylanders being denied their right to vote. The voters impacted most will be people with disabilities and people who are at risk of severe illness if exposed to COVID-19, including older adults.
“The June Primary was the first statewide election in which ballots were mailed, postage was pre-paid for returning ballots, and touch-free drop boxes were available. Because of this accessible plan, and despite the pandemic, completely new voting options, and mistakes made, voter turnout was high. And, of the people who voted, 97% voted by mail. Unacceptably, none of these options are included in the Governor’s directive for the General Election issued today.
“The State of Maryland should save everyone the time, burden, and confusion of the Governor’s current plan and instead mail ballots to all eligible voters to ensure that the vast majority of voters can cast their ballots safely. Mailing ballots to registered voters, paired with expanded in-person voting options during early voting and Election Day and drop boxes, will make it possible for the vast majority of voters to exercise their right to vote safely.”