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Maryland election officials roll out ballot box security measures

Ballot drop box in Baltimore County.
John Lee
Ballot drop box in Baltimore County.

Early voting for Maryland’s gubernatorial primary begins next Thursday. But some voters have already cast ballots through mail-in voting.

In Baltimore County, plans are in place to keep the mail-in drop boxes secure and the election office workers safe.

County Elections Director Ruie Lavoie said there is around-the-clock video surveillance of the county’s35 drop boxesand police officers will be visiting each location during the day.

None of the boxes were tampered with two years ago, she said.

“The ballot boxes were respected in 2020 and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that happens again in [2022],” Lavoie said.

Municipalities across Maryland have similar safeguards in place for the drop boxes.

Lavoie said there will be increased security in place for her staff since county election workers have been targeted and threatened nationwide. Police will be at the elections office during early voting and on election day. There will be extra lights in the parking lot.

“We’re kind of a big election family and definitely look out for each other,” Lavoie said. “No one is ever here by themselves.”

Maryland voters statewide were asked about whether they thought the elections would be conducted fairly and accurately this year in a mid-June Goucher College poll.

About 501 Democratic voters and 508 Republicans in Maryland were surveyed about various topics, conducted by the Sarah T. Hughes Center for Politics at Goucher College in partnership with WYPR and The Baltimore Banner.

About 65 percent of Democratic voters and 21 percent of Republicans were very confident that the elections would be fair and accurate.

Ballots are trickling in at the drop boxes. Lavoie, the county election official, estimated as many as 100,000 voters in Baltimore County will drop their ballots either in the boxes or in the mail. That’s about one in six of the county’s registered voters.

“I think people enjoy voting from home, having the ability to take their time to determine who they’re going to vote for,” Lavoie said.

But she adds it’s hard to forecast how many people will vote that way because much has changed since the last gubernatorial primary in 2018, when few people voted by mail.

During the 2020 primary, the coronavirus pandemic forced the state to conduct the election almost entirely by mail, limiting in-person voting. Lavoie said about 50 percent of the county’s voters used the mail-in option for the 2020 general election.

If you requested a mail-in ballot, Lavoie said you should use it. If you show up during early voting or on election day July 19 and try to cast your ballot in person instead, you will have to do so using a provisional ballot so election officials can make sure you didn’t vote twice.

“The provisional process takes a little bit longer,” Lavoie said. “We always recommend that they go home and then vote their ballot that they already have and use the drop boxes before 8 o’clock on election day.”

See full poll results here.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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