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Election coverage from WYPR and NPR

Maryland ballots can be counted before Election Day judge rules

John Lee
A mail-in ballot drop box in Baltimore County.

Maryland counties expect to begin processing mail-in ballots as early as Oct. 1 after a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the state Board of Elections’ emergency petition on Friday.

More than 524,800 voters requested mail-ballots statewide for the Nov. 8 general election, state records show. Maryland State Board of Election officials were concerned that they won’t be able to certify final election results until late December or even early January 2023.

The state seeks to process mail-in ballots before Election Day, but would not post results online until after polls closed.

Maryland voters cast 345,230 mail-in ballots during the primary in July, but election officials couldn’t open them, let alone count them, until two days after.

The Maryland State Board of Elections released a statement after the ruling which "provides election officials with additional time to canvass and tabulate these ballots to ensure that all critical election related deadlines established by law are met."

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.

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

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

Attorneys on behalf of Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Cox opposed the state Board of Elections’ petition arguing that such a decision should be made in the state legislature, not in the courts.

Cox told reporters on Tuesday that processing mail-in ballots early “undermines the confidence of the voters” and declined to definitively say he would accept the results of an election that processed ballots before Election Day.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye
Kristen Mosbrucker is a digital news editor and producer for WYPR. @k_mosbrucker
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