Preparing for the General Election
LWVMD Voter Service Chair
Voter education has never been more important than in the upcoming November elections. The election format is a combination of ballot application forms, mail-in voting, early voting and voting on election day – a new combination for our state, and a combination that is occurring in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The League favors mail-in voting for safety reasons. For the general election, this is a two-stage process: submitting an application for a mail-in ballot and voting the mail-in ballot. Voters may submit an online ballot application, download and print a ballot application, or return the ballot application that comes in the mail. Whichever option they choose, they should make their request as soon as possible so that the Board of Elections can get the requests processed and the ballots mailed in a timely fashion. The online application is particularly helpful to the Board as it eliminates the work of processing a paper application, but this option is only available to voters with a Maryland driver’s license or state ID card. All applications must be received by the Board of Elections by October 20. Voters can check the status of their request online or call their local Board of Elections for information.
If voters are requesting their ballots online, we recommend that they request that their ballot be sent by mail. With electronic delivery, ballots are printed at home. The information on them must be transferred by an election worker to a regular ballot in order to be read by the machine readers. This is very time consuming in a high-volume mail-in election. In general, only voters who need to use the online ballot-marking device or use a screen reader should download a ballot.
Communications with voters concerning mail-in voting should emphasize the importance of signing and dating the ballot envelope and the importance of getting ballots in as soon as possible so that counting can be done in a timely fashion. In order to be counted, ballots must be placed in a secure drop box or postmarked by 8:00 pm on November 3. Drop boxes will be available from late September through Election Day. Most local Board have their locations already posted on their websites.
The options for in-person voting have been expanded for the general election, and voters may use any vote center in their county (or Baltimore City). Efforts will be made to keep the centers safe, with social distancing, masks, barrier shields, frequently cleaning, etc. However, the total number of centers is drastically reduced from what is usually available due to the difficulty in getting election judges, and lines are expected to be long. The League is therefore encouraging Early Voting, which will be available from October 26 through November 2, 7:00 am – 8:00 pm daily, including weekends. The lists of vote centers are generally up now on the websites for the local boards of elections. Statewide lists of vote centers are to be posted on this site but they are not available yet.
Finally, as the election approaches, Maryland voters will once again be able to use VOTE411.org to see how the candidates answered the League’s questions. VOTE411 is currently available for election information. The sections with the candidates’ responses will go live on September 19. Many thanks to our hardworking volunteers across the state for making this happen.