ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Gov. Larry Hogan is directing the State Board of Elections to keep all polling places open for the general election in November despite the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to the board’s chairman on Wednesday, Hogan also called on the state to send out absentee ballot application requests to all eligible voters and make every effort to promote absentee and early voting as well as voting during off-peak hours.
“Every early voting center should be open and every polling location should be open on Election Day to accommodate anyone who wishes to cast their ballot safely and in person,” the letter reads.
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Hogan also wrote he remains concerned about the “series of failures that — while not intended — potentially resulted in disenfranchisement and suppression of primary voters.”
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, the State Board of Elections said it will “move forward with plans for a traditional general election on November 3rd and will expand efforts to promote voting by mail, early voting, and voting at offpeak times.”
The board also said it would continue to work with local officials and the public to make sure voting is safe and accessible.
In a joint statement, Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones expressed some concerns about whether local officials will be able to handle an expected surge in mail ballot applications:
“We are pleased the Governor finally made a decision that included early voting and election-day precinct level voting, but we share the concerns that local election officials will not have the staff or resources to process that many Vote By Mail applications in a timely manner.
The Governor must provide the necessary resources to the local and state boards for personal protective equipment, additional staff and a robust awareness campaign.
We hope the Governor will maintain maximum flexibility so that, should the pandemic worsen, or Election Judges are unable to be found, we can pivot to ensure that no Maryland voter is disenfranchised. It is now incumbent upon every election official and elected leader to work together to make this election a success. Failure is not an option.”
On Facebook, Maryland Republican Party Chairman Dirk Haire praised the plan:
“I am very pleased to let everyone know that Governor Hogan has ordered every precinct in the State to be open for in person voting on November 3, 2020, as required by State law. The Governor also advised SBE to encourage those who are concerned about voting in person to vote by our existing absentee ballot process. Common sense prevailed.”
The Maryland Democratic Party, meanwhile, said the election should be conducted primarily by mail with “as many early voting and in-person voting locations will allow”:
“We are living in a world where our entire way of life and economy can be wiped out in a matter of days. Why on earth would Gov. Hogan recommend that our public buildings be open and staffed for the general election, when we have no idea what our public health situation will be by the Fall? If the Governor insists on an in-person precinct-level election, then he must be held fully responsible for any and all poll-worker shortages; lack of PPE; or long lines associated with his decision. We must follow the advice of the scientists and public health experts.”
During the primary in June — which had been delayed from April 28 due to the pandemic — some Baltimore voters received mail-in ballots that didn’t scan and had to be transferred to new ballots. Other voters reported not getting mail-in ballots at all.
Some voters reported waiting in long lines to cast their ballots in person.