A letter from multiple county leaders calls on Governor Larry Hogan to reconsider his plan for the November general election and instead consider the “hybrid” vote-by-mail election with extended in-person voting centers, recommended by the Maryland Association of Election Officials (MAEO).
As previously reported on Conduit Street, under Governor Hogan’s plan, all in-person voting locations will be open and voters will be mailed an absentee ballot application (instead of an absentee ballot).
MAEO, the professional membership organization comprised of local election officials and Election Boards from all 24 jurisdictions in the State of Maryland, has warned that Governor Hogan’s plan will be “costly, inefficient, and unsuccessful” and says that the directive will lead to confusion and long lines at polling places.
In a letter to the governor, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, Baltimore City Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, Baltimore County Executive Johhny Olszewski, Jr., Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks say that his directive “will require local Boards of Elections to, in essence, conduct two elections – a vote-by-mail election as well as a regular election.”
From the letter:
We have only to look at the failures across the country of states that required vote-by-mail ballot applications in which millions of additional dollars had to be spent, elections staff overwhelmed with last minute applications that could not be processed in time for Election Day, and the resulting need to extend voting hours as voters were forced to the polls.
Our own experience tells us that people will be standing together for prolonged periods indoors as they wait to receive and then cast their ballots. And, as we saw in primaries across the country, the volume of voters at polls makes it difficult for voters to effectively practice physical distancing.
We are also very concerned about the capacity to support the necessary number of polling places, as facility use may be limited. Many of our traditional polls are housed at K-12 public schools to which we have not had access during the pandemic. Based on feedback we have already begun to receive, we believe there will be limited availability of private venues, like places of worship, community centers, nursing homes and senior centers, due to health and safety concerns.
Further, we expect there will be a need for an increased number of poll workers in order to adequately extend voting hours and opportunity. Those staffing polling centers will also have to perform the necessary enhanced cleaning and sanitizing required to comply with CDC and health department guidelines. While this level of staffing would be difficult in a typical year, health and safety concerns of volunteers due to COVID-19 will drastically impact the ability of election boards in this area. This shortage of poll center staff will be further exacerbated by the fact that many of our long-standing volunteers and election judges are older and, therefore, more vulnerable.
Your directive may cause a hardship for voters. We are worried that voters will be challenged by the timeline in having to submit a vote-by-mail application in order to receive a ballot in time. We are concerned there will be confusion among voters who voted with the process used during the primary election. And we are most especially concerned that voters, unable to meet the ballot application deadline, will be forced to go to the polls, putting themselves and others at undue health risk.
Maryland’s Congressional Delegation last week wrote to Governor Larry Hogan to express concerns with his plan to proceed with in-person voting for the November 3 general election.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, Senate President Ferguson and Chair of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee Paul Pinsky recommended a “hybrid mail-in ballot preferred election” in November. The Senate Republican Caucus called for Maryland to hold a traditional election in November, noting that voters can request an absentee ballot if they choose not to vote in person.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.