The Maryland State Board of Elections has petitioned courts to allow for earlier opening of November election mail-in ballots starting on October 1.
According to Maryland Matters, the State Board of Elections filed a petition on Friday seeking a judicial order to suspend a state law that prohibits the opening of any mail-in ballot envelope before the Wednesday after election and asks the court to permit local election boards to begin processing mail ballots on Oct. 1.
The ability to process mail-in ballots is essential for reporting timely election results. As many more voters (each receiving direct instructions on how to vote by mail) opt to cast mail-in ballots, local boards need more flexibility to meet critical certification deadlines and provide meaningful results after the polls close on election day. As previously reported on Conduit Street, the General Assembly passed a bill this year that would have allowed for earlier processing, but Governor Hogan vetoed the emergency legislation to provide local boards of elections with necessary and reasonable flexibility to canvass mail-in ballots, which led to delays in processing an unprecedented 345,081 mail-in ballots during the July Primary Election.
State regulations currently prohibit local boards from canvassing mail-in ballots until the Thursday following an election. SB 163, sponsored by Senator Cheryl Kagan, would have allowed the canvassing (but not tabulation) of mail-in votes up to eight days before early voting. MACo supported the bill with clarifying and technical amendments. The bill was ultimately vetoed by the Governor, and did not get enacted for this year’s elections.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.
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