The State Board of Elections yesterday requested an additional $20.6 million in state funding to conduct the November election, citing significant costs related to mailing absentee ballot applications to voters, prepaid postage for voters to return mail-in ballots, and a statewide voter education campaign.
“The fiscal impact of the primary election was reduced due to the federal CARES Act funding and election officials’ ability to transfer funds needed for a primarily in-person election to a primarily vote-by-mail election,” State Administrator Linda Lamone wrote in a letter Tuesday to state officials. “There are no federal CARES Act funding left, and there will not be sufficient savings to apply to the expected increase in mail-in ballots.”
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).
The Maryland Association of Election Officials (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.
MAEO is concerned about a shortage of personal protective gear, election judges, and the availability of polling places. Many community voting sites, such as schools and senior centers, remain shuttered because of the pandemic.
Lamone said it would cost $5.6 million to print and mail voters applications for a mail-in ballot. She anticipates that producing and mailing those ballots will cost another $5.5 million. That figure is based on an estimate of 50% of eligible voters requesting a ballot and returning it by mail.
Local boards of elections, whose functions are supported by county funding, will pay $3.6 million for return postage for the two mailings associated with the November election, and the state will reimburse them for half of those costs, Lamone said.
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 MAEO.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.