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State elections board seeks court order to count mail-in ballots early

John Lee
A woman drops off her mail-in ballot in Baltimore County.

The Maryland State Board of Elections voted unanimously Monday to pursue an emergency court order to allow counties statewide to begin counting mail-in ballots before the general election in November. There were 345,230 mail-in ballots from across the state during the primary election in July, but they couldn’t be opened, let alone counted, until two days after Election Day. Results were not certified until weeks later.

Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed legislation earlier this year which would have allowed county election offices to count ballots before in-person voting.

At the time, Hogan cited lack of ability to verify signatures as a security threat to election integrity.

The emergency petition in circuit court will detail that while mail-in ballots would be counted prior to Election Day, no results would be posted until after the polls close.

“Given Maryland’s experience in the primary election and the expected and continued expansion of mail-in balloting, the inability of the local boards of elections to canvass mail-in ballots before Election Day could have significant implications,” board members said in a statement.

State board members are concerned that final election results from November might be delayed until late December or even January 2023.

Maryland is the only state that prohibits processing mail-in ballots until days after in-person voting on Election Day. Dozens of states begin counting mail-in ballots either before or on Election Day.

Michael Ricci, a spokesperson for Hogan, told the Associated Press that the governor supports the election board decision.

“The governor strongly supports the board finally taking action to adopt early canvassing — as he did for the 2020 election,” Ricci said.

Kristen Mosbrucker is a digital news editor and producer for WYPR. @k_mosbrucker
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