State Moves Forward with Plan to Conduct Presidential Primary Election Via Mail

As health officials warn that social distancing and other measures to contain the COVID-19 epidemic might be in place months, the Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) yesterday voted to ban any in-person voting for the special general election on April 28 and recommended against in-person voting for the June 2 presidential primary election.

Earlier this month, Governor Larry Hogan ordered the special general election to fill the late Rep. Elijah Cummings’s congressional seat in Maryland’s Seventh District be conducted via mail. Hogan also postponed Maryland’s presidential primary due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

SBE was considering a requirement that Local Boards of Elections provide a limited number of in-person voting centers for the special general election in order to serve voters with disabilities, voters without access to mail, and others. But, citing health concerns and the inability to protect voters and poll workers, board members voted to prohibit any form of in-person voting on April 28.

Local election officials have expressed concerns over the safety of voters and election judges for Maryland’s June 2 presidential primary election. According to Deputy Election Administrator Nikki Charlson, 40% of existing poll workers could not work a proposed early voting period in late May and 20% were unwilling or unable to serve at polling centers during the June 2 primary. Those numbers will likely increase as more people get sick, Charlson said.

In order to address these concerns, the State Board of Elections is recommending that there be no in-person voting for the June 2 primary, opting instead for mail-in or drop-off ballots that would be sent to every one of Maryland’s more than 4 million voters.

According to Maryland Matters:

Ye told board members that current modeling indicates COVID-19 cases will peak in Maryland around July 4. The number of confirmed coronavirus diagnoses in the state could hit 1,800 in the state by April 1, he said.

Board members expressed concern that opening polling places ― particularly with many of the state’s volunteer election judges being retirees ― could put workers and voters in an unhealthy situation.

SBE will meet again next Thursday before finalizing and submitting its proposal for conducting the June 2 elections to Governor Hogan April 3.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

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