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.
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.
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.)
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.
First, explain the ballot application situation.
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?
You have a number of options. To slow the spread of the coronavirus, officials are urging Maryland residents to vote by mail, but, you can vote in person if you need to, or if you choose to. Here are your options:
Voting by mail
After you've filled out your ballot (and have signed the oath on the back of the envelope!) you'll need to turn it in by either:
- Mailing it to your local election office. If you received your ballot by mail, postage is pre-paid!
- Inserting it in an official State of Maryland ballot drop box. List of locations here. The drop boxes look like this. Ballot boxes are open 24/7 and will be until 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.
- Taking it to your local election office.
In-person polling places
There will be more than 75 early voting centers and more than 300 Election Day voting centers. You can find your polling place here, but voters can cast their ballot at any center in the county they live in, and Baltimore City residents can cast their ballot at any voting center within the city.
Voting centers will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. during early voting (including on weekends) and on Election Day.
I'm planning to vote in person, but I'm nervous because of the pandemic.
That's understandable. The State Board of Elections' Voter Guide includes some information on how the state will protect voters inside polling places. Measures include:
- Limiting the number of people inside voting centers at one time
- Keeping voters six feet apart
- Requiring mask wearing
- Temperature checks (for Baltimore City voters)
Election officials encourage residents to cast their vote during off-peak times (on weekends during early voting and between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Election Day.) And of course, keep your distance, wear your mask inside your polling place and outdoors when around others, and bring that hand sanitizer! Full list of CDC guidelines on protecting yourself and others from COVID-19 here.
Can I track my ballot?
Yes! Follow this link and enter your information on the right. When you get to the "Voter Lookup" page, scroll down and click on "Status of My Mailed-in or Provisional Ballots." The State Board of Elections says it may take up to two weeks for status updates to be reported.
I have questions not covered here.
We get it. It's a lot.
Contact the State Board of Elections by:
- Phone: 410-269-2840
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Other ways to get in touch here.
Contact information for local boards of election offices here.
On Tues., Oct. 6, the Maryland State Board of Elections held a Twitter Q & A. More information here.
Who's on the ballot?
It depends on where you live. Candidates for president and vice president will be on every ballot, but there are also citywide and congressional races, in addition to ballot measures, and more. Find your sample ballot here.
Learn more about the candidates and issues:
- See Emily Sullivan's stories for Baltimore City races.
- Check out John Lee's stories to stay up on what's happening in Baltimore County.
- Visit Rachel Baye's page for statewide government and politics, including election-related topics affecting voters across the state.
- Follow Sarah Y. Kim's reporting to learn about the health and safety concerns impacting this election.
- Listen to Midday's Conversations with the Candidates series. You can see who will be interviewed in the series by following Midday on Twitter, and by signing up for our programming newsletters.
- Check the On the Record page for election stories.
- Complete WYPR election coverage here.
- For national races, check out NPR's election coverage.
- Follow our news team on Twitter. Here's a list. Twitter accounts for other staff, shows and podcasts here.
This post was originally published on Oct. 5. It will be updated frequently.