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The WYPR 2020 Voter Guide

Jamyla Krempel

You've probably heard it said that the 2020 general election is the most important election of our lifetime. (We hear that every four years.) Every Election Day is important, but the coronavirus pandemic promises that the Nov. 3 election will be unlike any we've experienced in the 21st century. (Read a story about voting during the 1918 Spanish Flu here.)

You have some important decisions to make--not just about who to vote for--but also how you'll vote. By mail? In person? By drop box? We know it can be overwhelming. We're here to help! Here's some things you need to know about voting in Maryland this year. 

Important dates

Tues., Oct. 13: Deadline to register to vote (5:00 p.m. in person; 11:59 p.m. online.) Details.  

Tues., Oct. 20: Deadline for requesting a mail-in ballot. Options:

  • Request a mail-in ballot online here. The deadline is 11:59 p.m.
  • Drop your application in an official ballot drop box. Locations here. Google map of Baltimore City ballot box locations here.
  • Print this form, fill it out, and take it to your local board of election office before it closes for the day. Some offices require appointments so call before you go. 
  • If you mailed your application, your local board of elections must receive your application by October 20.

Mon., Oct. 26-Mon., Nov. 2: Early voting. Voting centers will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 
Tues., Nov. 3: Election Day. Voting centers will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Voter registration

Am I eligible to register to vote? 

You're eligible if you are a U.S. citizen, a Maryland resident and are at least 16-years-old (but you have to be 18 to vote in an election.) 

You cannot register to vote if you've been convicted of buying or selling votes, convicted of a felony and are currently serving a court-ordered sentence of imprisonment, or are under guardianship for mental disability and have been found by a court to be unable to communicate a desire to vote. More details on voter registration eligibility here.

What's the deadline to register to vote? 

Oct. 13 is the deadline to register to vote. List of ways to register to vote here. If you miss the Oct. 13 deadline, you'll have to register in-person at a voting center during early voting (Oct. 26-Nov. 2) or on Election Day (Nov. 3.) 

List of early voting centers here; Election Day voting centers here

I can't remember if I've registered to vote. 

No problem. You can check your registration status here

I registered a while back but I need to change my address.

You can do that here. If you need to update your name, or if you want to change your political party affiliation, you can do it at that same link. You have until Oct. 13 to update your voter registration information. 

How to vote

First, explain the ballot application situation.

Credit Jamyla Krempel
A Maryland mail-in ballot application.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced in July that Maryland residents who wanted to vote in the November election would have to submit a ballot application. That meant that eligible voters would not be mailed a ballot like they were in the June primary.

If you're an eligible voter, you should've received an application to request a mail-in ballot over the summer. If you didn't (or if you lost it!), you have until Oct. 20 to request one. 

To request a mail-in ballot: 

  • Complete the application online here. The deadline for requesting a ballot online is 11:59 p.m. October 20.
  • Print and fill out this form, then turn it into your local election office before it closes on Oct. 20. Some offices require appointments so call before you go. 
  • If you have the mail-in ballot application (if it came in the mail or if you printed it online), you can fill it out and drop it in an official ballot drop box. Locations here. Google map of Baltimore City ballot box locations here.
  • You can text VBM (English) or VPC (Spanish) to 777-88. You'll receive a text reply that includes a link to request your ballot online.
  • If mailing your application, your local board of elections must receive your application by October 20.

No matter how you request a ballot, applications must be received by Oct. 20. 
When and how will I get my ballot?

WYPR's Emily Sullivan reported that Maryland's Board of Elections began sending out about 800,000 mail-in ballots over the Sept. 27 weekend. State Board of Elections officials encourage eligible voters to submit their ballot request as soon as possible. 

On the application for a mail-in ballot you can specify how you want to receive your ballot: by U.S. mail (the Board of Elections highly recommends this option); by fax; or by internet delivery (you'll have to print your ballot.) You can also pick it up in person (or have someone pick it up for you) at your local election office. Details on picking up a ballot here.  

Got it. So how do I vote? 

Jamyla Krempel is WYPR's digital content director and the executive producer of Wavelength: Baltimore's Public Radio Journey. She collaborates with reporters, program and podcast hosts to create content for WYPR’s online platforms.
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