The State Board of Elections (SBE) today agreed to ask Governor Larry Hogan to designate each of Maryland’s 282 high schools as vote centers — places where any county resident can vote, regardless of their precinct — for the November 3 election.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, Governor Hogan has ordered all 1,848 neighborhood precincts to be open and for all voters to be mailed an mail-in ballot application (instead of an mail-in ballot) for the November 3 general election.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Maryland Association of Election Officials (MAEO), the professional membership organization consisting 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.
According to MAEO, local boards of elections are short about a third of the poll workers they would need to open all polling sites on election day. Additionally, nearly 100 polling places have indicated that they will not allow their facilities to serve as voting sites on election day.
As a result of the severe shortage of poll workers and facilities, several county boards of elections requested to consolidate polling places. To avoid consolidations, MAEO proposed to open 163 vote centers across Maryland for six consecutive days of voting leading up to and on November 3.
MAEO says that vote centers would also save time and money, and, because a voter could cast their ballot at any county voting center, the proposal would result in fewer provisional ballots from voters that attempt to vote at the wrong precinct on election day.
SBE were concerned that 163 vote centers would be insufficient and instead agreed to ask the governor to open 282 centralized vote centers in lieu of requiring all polling places to be open for November’s election.
Because Maryland is under a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor has the sole authority to determine the format of November’s election. As such, Governor Hogan would need to approve SBE’s recommendation.
SBE said it would wait for a response from Governor Hogan before considering requests to consolidate polling places (which would not be necessary if the governor approves centralized vote centers).
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.