Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Voting in the 2020 General Election

With the 2020 Presidential General Election just around the corner, Conduit Street has compiled a list of commonly asked questions about the upcoming election and guidance for residents on how to vote safely and conveniently amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Am I eligible to vote?

In Maryland, to register to vote, you must be:

  • A U.S. citizen
  • A Maryland resident
  • At least 16 years old*

*You may register to vote if you are at least 16 years old but cannot vote unless you will be at least 18 years old by the next general election.

In Maryland, you are ineligible to vote if:

  • You have been convicted of buying or selling votes.
  • You were convicted of a felony and are currently serving a court-ordered sentence of imprisonment.
  • You are under guardianship for mental disability and have been found by a court to be unable to communicate a desire to vote.

When was the voter registration deadline?

The deadline to register to vote or update your voter registration information was October 13, 2020. You can check your registration status, click here. Your voter registration must be up to date with your current address.

I missed the voter registration deadline. Is there any way I can still vote in this election?

Yes. You may register to vote or update your voter registration information in person during early voting or on election day. If you update your address on election day, you will complete a provisional ballot. An election judge will assist you with this process.

What is a provisional ballot?

Election judges will offer a provisional ballot to a person who thinks they are eligible to vote but whose name is not listed in the voter registration database.

Provisional ballots list the same choices as regular ballots and look the same. However, a provisional voter must complete the information on the provisional ballot envelope, put the ballot inside the envelope, and give it to the election judge for placement in the provisional ballot bag.

A provisional ballot will be counted if the local board of elections is able to verify that the provisional voter is registered and eligible to vote in Maryland. Provisional ballots are counted even if they will not change the outcome of an election.

After the election, you can use the State Board of Elections voter lookup website to find out if your provisional ballot was counted and, if not, the reason why it was not counted. This information is ordinarily available ten days after the election.

How and when can I vote?

While there are multiple ways to participate in the 2020 presidential election, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local election officials are encouraging all eligible Marylanders to cast mail-in ballots. Voting by mail is a safe and secure way of voting.

You can either vote in person during early voting or on election day or by mail-in ballot.

Early voting starts on Monday, October 26, 2020, and goes through Monday, November 2, 2020. Each early voting center will be open continuously from 7 am to 8 pm each day. Anyone in line at 8 pm will be allowed to vote.

On election day, you can vote at any election day vote center in the county in which you live. On election day, vote centers are open continuously from 7 am until 8 pm. Anyone in line at 8 pm will be allowed to vote.

If you are unable to vote during early voting or on election day, you may vote by absentee ballot.

The State Board of Elections last month published a list of early voting and election day voting locations for Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City.

How do I request a mail-in ballot?

Requesting a mail-in ballot is safe and easy. To vote by mail, you must request a mail-in ballot from the State Board of Elections or your local board, by mail, fax, or using the Board’s online system. Your local board of elections must receive your request by October 20, 2020. If you request a ballot by mail, please leave five business days for the United States Postal Service to deliver your application to your local board of elections.

The State Board of Elections automatically sent all eligible voters an application for a mail-in ballot by first class U.S. Mail. The application came with a postage-paid return envelope to make it easy and free to request your ballot.

If you need another application, you can get an English version or a Spanish version.

When is the deadline for submitting mail-in ballots?

Mail-in ballots must be postmarked or placed in a designated ballot drop box by 8:00 pm on November 3, 2020.

When completing your ballot, remember to:

  • Use Black Ink to Mark your Ballot.
  • Sign the Return Envelope. Do Not Sign the Ballot.
  • Seal your Return Envelope.
  • Send your Ballot using the Postage-Paid Return Envelope.

What is a ballot drop box?

Rather than submitting mail-in ballots through the postal service, voters (especially last-minute voters!) can drop off their sealed and signed ballots in locked ballot drop boxes.

Ballot drop boxes are operated and maintained by local election officials. Ballot drop off boxes are monitored and secured by trusted local election officials. Ballots are retrieved from the boxes at least twice daily by local election officials.

At least 200 drop box locations will be available statewide. Ballot drop boxes will be open until 8 pm on November 3. Click here to see the list of ballot drop off boxes.

What is Maryland’s voting system for voting in person at a vote center?

Voters who appear in person to vote on election day will be given the choice to mark a pre-printed paper ballot by hand or to mark their ballots using an electronic ballot marking device.

Voters will mark the pre-printed paper ballots by hand at a voting booth. Voters will review their marked paper ballots and then insert them into a scanner that tabulates the voters’ selections. The paper ballots then automatically drop into a secure ballot box.

Electronic ballot marking device will also be available at vote centers. These devices are available for all voters to use, and also contain accessibility features that let voters make selections using a keypad with Braille-embossed navigation buttons and an audio headset.

The ballot marking device also enables voters to magnify text and change the contrast on the screen, and can be used with other assistive devices. The ballot marking device will print your ballot, which you must then insert into a separate scanner that tabulates the voters’ selections.

Do I need to bring an ID?

Usually, you will not be asked to show ID if your name is on the list of registered voters. However, you will be asked to show ID if:

  • You registered by mail and have not previously met the identification requirements.
  • Someone in the polling place challenges your identity.
  • You are registering to vote during early voting or changing your address during early voting.

If you do not have your ID with you, you may vote a provisional ballot for the presidential general election and bring your ID to your local election board before 10 a.m. on November 12, 2020, so that your identity and eligibility can be verified in time to count your vote.

Is voting accessible to individuals with disabilities?

All voting centers in Maryland are accessible to voters with disabilities. To learn more about accessible voting, visit the SBE website.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: State Launches Online Tracking Tool for Mail-In Ballot Submissions

Maryland State Board of Elections: Daily Updates of Sent and Returned Mail-In Ballots

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Prince George’s Urges Additional State Funding to Support General Election

Prince George’s County Joint Letter to Governor Larry Hogan (September 22, 2020)

Previous Conduit Steet Coverage: State Posts Early Voting and Election Day Voting Center Sites

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Election Officials to Voters: Ignore Inaccurate Postal Service Mailers

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Get Your Ballot by Mail (Not Email) to Save Time and Money

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: New $250 Million Grant Program Available to Local Election Officials

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Check Your Mailbox: Mail-In Ballot Applications Are on the Way

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Board OKs MACo’s Request for Additional State Funding for Mail-In Ballot Applications

Senator Kagan’s Letter to the State Board of Elections (August 14, 2020)

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: State to Provide More Ballot Drop Boxes, Allow for Earlier Canvassing of Mail-In Ballots

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: MACo on General Election: State Should Pay Extra Ballot Costs

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: State Board to Governor: Designate All High Schools as Vote Centers On Election Day

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Local Officials Make Final Appeal to Avoid “Catastrophic Failure” on Election Day

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Hogan Demands Update on Mail-In Ballots, Polling Places for Nov Election

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Local Election Directors: Emergency Pollworker Shortage Will Lead to Long Lines, Voter Confusion

Letter from MAEO (July 23, 2020)

Conduit Street Podcast: Wrestling With Reopening

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: State Board Seeks Additional $20M for Nov Election

Letter from State Administrator LindaLamone (July 21, 2020)

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Several County Leaders Ask Hogan to Reconsider Directive for Nov Election

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

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