Voting-By-Mail in a Pandemic: A State-By-State Report Card

Maryland received a B grade in a Brookings Institution assessment of the ease of voting-by-mail in the 2020 primary election.

Across the country, legislatures have taken a number of steps to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on elections. Still, the 2020 primaries were plagued by long lines, late-arriving/missing ballots, an influx of absentee ballot requests, and technology glitches.

With those issues in mind, the Brookings Institution today released an assessment of the ease of mail voting in each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., on dimensions such as requesting, completing, and submitting a mail-in ballot. The scores are not based on the best voting practices outside of a pandemic; instead, Brookings evaluated the ease of voting-by-mail amidst a pandemic.

Screen Shot 2020-07-15 at 2.39.09 PM

Maryland received a B grade, even though it did mail all voters a ballot for the June 2 primary election. However, Governor Larry Hogan last week ordered all polling places to be open for the November election and directed election officials to mail each voter an absentee ballot application (instead of an absentee ballot).

According to Brookings:

Seven states received an A grade. In these states, a voter does not need to request an absentee ballot—an actual ballot is mailed to every registered voter.

The remaining states allow for absentee voting but there are huge variations in the ease of applying for, receiving, and submitting a valid absentee ballot. We scored the remaining states on twelve dimensions and translated the scores into letter grades.

Three of those dimensions deal with how easy it is to get an absentee ballot. The most points were awarded for those states that automatically sent absentee ballot applications to all voters

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).

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.

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.

Useful Links

The Brookings Institution: Voting by mail in a pandemic: A state-by-state scorecard

County Letter to Governor Hogan (July 14, 2020)

Maryland Congressional Delegation Letter to Governor Hogan (July 9, 2020)

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Local Election Directors Ask Hogan to Reject “Ill-Advised” Plan for Nov Election

State Board of Elections: Report on June 2 Election & Recommendations for November 3 Election

Maryland Matters: Elections Officials Send Hogan 3 Options for November Vote

MAEO Letter to Governor Hogan (July 6, 2020)

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Local Election Administrators Urge (Mostly) Vote-By-Mail Election in November

Conduit Street Podcast: A View From the Senate

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Senate Leaders Outline Roadmap for November Election

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Maryland Senate Republicans Oppose Statewide Vote-By-Mail Election in November

Letter to State Board of Elections from Senate Republican Caucus

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Hogan Urges Marylanders to Vote By Mail for Presidential Primary Election

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Today: House-Senate Joint Committee Briefing to Review Primary Election

Conduit Street Podcast: Holding Elections Amid a Pandemic