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Baltimore County pushes forward to start counting mail-in ballots before Election Day

A woman drops a ballot into a drop box while casting her vote during Maryland's primary election in Baltimore.
Julio Cortez/AP
A woman drops a ballot into a drop box while casting her vote during Maryland's primary election in Baltimore.

Baltimore County election officials planned to wait to count mail-in ballots despite getting the legal green light to do so before Election Day but has since reversed course. County Elections Director Ruie Lavoie said Tuesday the court rulings which cleared the way to begin counting mail-in ballots as early as Oct. 1 were too late in the process. October was already booked with things to be done at her office, such as training election judges and picking up supplies. There isn't room to count ballots as well.

“We’re kind of in the tenth hour,” Lavoie said on Tuesday about the Nov. 8 Election Day.

Lavoie on Tuesday said it was likely the mail-in count would begin on November 10. On Wednesday, she said she found another building for election judge training so they will have room to start counting mail-in ballots sooner. She said that will begin on Nov. 5.

“We will work diligently and efficiently so we’re able to certify on time on November 18,” she said.

The county has received more than 81,000 requests for mail-in ballots. There are about 607,000 eligible voters across Baltimore County.

Dan Cox, the Republican nominee for governor, lost a legal battle to force election officials to wait until after Election Day to count mail-in ballots. Despite losing the legal appeal, he asked for voluntary action to delay counting anyway on social media. 

But that’s not why Baltimore County is waiting to process mail-in ballots.

“We can’t factor that in,” Lavoie said. “We have to make our decisions based on the law, regulation and the best interest of our voters.”

Meanwhile, Baltimore County still needs 800 election judges to run the polls during early voting and on Election Day.

“We need Democratic and Republican judges to serve in various polling places throughout Baltimore County,” Lavoie said. “It’s a good way to make money right before the holiday and also fulfill your civic duty.”

Editors Note: This story has been updated to reflect Baltimore County's new decision.

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