The Prince George’s County Council today voted to authorize Council Chair Todd M. Turner’s signature on a joint letter with County Executive Angela Alsobrooks urging Governor Larry Hogan to continue support for the 2020 Presidential General Election by providing additional funding and operational assistance for local Boards of elections.
While the letter expresses appreciation to Governor Hogan and the Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) for their decision to modify the original order from a primarily in-person general election to a hybrid option that includes the use of vote-by-mail, in-person voting, sufficient Election Day voting centers, and dropbox locations, the County also notes the additional costs to the Prince George’s County Board of Elections and other counties to conduct an election amidst a pandemic.
While state statute mandates that counties pay half of the postage costs for mail-in ballots, Governor Hogan’s directive for the Board to send all registered voters mail-in ballot applications — rather than mail-in ballots — will result in unforeseen and substantial costs for local boards of elections, whose operations are supported by county funding.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, MACo and Senator Cheryl Kagan sent letters to SBE requesting a formal vote to recommend that the State pay the total cost (printing, mailing, and return postage) for ballot applications. While the Board unanimously voted to approve the request, the Department of Budget and Management — which must approve the allocation of additional state funds — has yet to formally respond to the Board’s recommendation.
The Prince George’s County Board of Elections estimates additional unbudgeted costs to the County of over $3.5 million to carry out the election — which include expenses related to the mailing of ballots and ballot applications, the purchase and security of ballot dropboxes, and personal protective equipment for poll workers.
According to the joint letter:
“State legislation and partnerships have been for the State and Counties to share costs for the implementation of elections in the State. We join with the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) and the State Board of Elections in requesting additional State financial contribution to the Prince George’s and other local Board of Elections to conduct this unique General Election.”
“The November 3rd General Election will undoubtedly be one of the most consequential in recent history, and we have an obligation to ensure that poll workers are protected, residents remain safe, and every ballot is counted, said Council Chair Turner. “The Council remains committed to working with Governor Hogan, our State elected officials and residents to address our funding challenges so every resident has an opportunity to safely exercise their right to vote.”
“We are in the midst of unprecedented times, which has required us to take extra measures to ensure that Prince Georgians have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote in a manner that is safe,” said County Executive Alsobrooks. “Our County Board of Elections has been working diligently to oversee a safe and fair election, however with the unbudgeted, but necessary expenses that have arisen, we are hopeful that the state will provide an additional financial contribution due to the cost of this very unique election process.”
While state and local election officials are urging residents to vote by mail, SBE last week published a list of early voting and election day voting locations for Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City.
Early voting will be held from Monday, October 26, 2020, through Monday, November 2, 2020. Early voting and Election Day voting centers will be open from 7 am to 8 pm. Eligible voters may cast their ballots at any authorized voting location within their jurisdiction of residence.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.