The coronavirus pandemic has made many states declare mail-in only primary elections this spring in order to promote social distancing, Maryland among them. A new poll from WYPR, the Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore found that a large majority of voters say the mail-in election will not affect their decision to vote and that most voters trust the mail-in elections process as much as they trust standard elections.
“You have a totally different type of election,” said Roger Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs. “It's not getting people to turn out on Election Day. It's not having a union pick up supporters or a church pick up supporters and drive them to the polls.”
Now, he said, candidates must get voters to watch their mail, correctly fill out the ballot at home and send it back in. Multiple mayoral candidates have released videos or sent supporters emails explaining the mail-in ballot process from start to finish.
Pollsters spoke to 400 likely primary voters throughout Baltimore over the phone from May 11 to May 18. The poll respondents reflect the city’s electorate, meaning they’re mostly black, female and over the age of 50. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Voters were asked, "As you may know, voters are being urged to cast their ballots by mail in the upcoming election because of concerns about the coronavirus. Does the fact that voters are being asked to mail in their ballots rather than visit a polling place make it more likely you will vote this time, less likely, or does it make a difference either way?
Doesn’t make a difference - 78%
More likely - 17%
Less likely - 1%
Not sure - 4%
Baltimore City voters were sent their ballots later than registered voters throughout the state, a mistake that Maryland elections head Linda Lamone has attributed to a ballot vendor.
“We are extremely disappointed that our ballot mailing vendor failed to deliver ballots on schedule and failed to notify us about their delay,” Lamone said in a statement on Wednesday. “We will conduct a thorough review of their performance after the election. Despite this delay, ballots are being delivered daily to eligible voter addresses on file in Baltimore and Maryland. We are confident eligible voters will receive their ballots in time to cast their votes in the June 2 primary.”
To correctly mail in a ballot, voters must clearly mark their choices in black ink, sign the oath on the envelope and place it back in the mail. There is no postage required to submit a ballot. Ballots can be mailed at any time before election day but must be postmarked no later than June 2.
The poll also found that most Baltimore City voters trust the mail-in elections process as much as they trust standard elections, while a quarter of voters trust them less.
Voters were asked, “Does an election where most of the votes are mailed in make you trust the results of the election more, trust them less, or doesn’t it make a difference either way?”
Doesn’t make a difference - 61%
Trust them less - 24%
Trust them more - 8%
Not sure - 7%
“There clearly is a distinct segment of the electorate that is exhibiting more lack of trust,” said Steve Raabe. “Is it a real lack of trust, or is it people worried? We don't know.”
“I'm sure we'll figure this out after Election Day in terms of how voters react to the results and how people feel about the results,” he said. “But right now, there is a little wariness.”
There will be at least 15 ballot drop off locations for those who do not wish to drop their ballots in their mailboxes. There will also be four in-person voting centers in Baltimore City open on June 2 from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm.