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For November's Election, Maryland Voters Will Get Ballot Applications, Not Ballots

Rachel Baye / WYPR

On Election Day this November, Marylanders will be able to cast ballots at their regular polling places, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday in a letter to the State Board of Elections. However, voters who want to vote by mail will have to submit ballot applications.


The plan is a departure from the June primary, ahead of which all registered voters were mailed ballots. Instead, the state will send all registered voters applications for mail-in ballots.


All early voting centers will also be open as scheduled for a week at the end of October. 


Requiring voters to apply for ballots is an “unnecessary hurdle,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson.


In a letter sent Monday, the Maryland Association of Election Officials, which represents local boards of elections, urged Hogan and the State Board of Elections to send voters ballots, not applications. 


“We cannot overstate the devastating consequences likely to result if the State of Maryland does not plan now to mail every voter a ballot for the 2020 Presidential General Election,” wrote David Garreis, the organization’s president. “Requiring a Vote by Mail Application will cause voter confusion and creates a risk that the voters will not receive their ballot in time for the General Election.”


Ferguson also cited local election officials’ concerns that they will not be able to process all those ballot applications while also preparing to hold a full election.


“I think it’s certainly going to require personnel, safety precautions and safety measures, and PPE distribution,” Ferguson said. “We know that a lot of our election officials are retirees and fall in the categories of highest risk.”


In his letter to the State Board of Elections, Hogan said the state will provide personal protective equipment, or PPE, for elections staff and volunteers, and “encourage state employees to help supplement election staffing needs.”


Hogan attributed the decision to “failures” during the June primary that “potentially resulted in disenfranchisement and suppression of primary voters.” 


Ahead of the primary, many voters received incorrect ballots or none at all. As a result of the errors and general confusion about the process, thousands of people spent hours waiting in line to vote.

Rachel Baye is a reporter for WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye
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