What you need to know about 2020 voting

Voters will have a few options if they want to take part in the Nov. 3 general election, but elections officials strongly favor one of them as a way to avoid long lines at voting centers and to reduce the spread of Covid-19 among voters and poll workers. 

“Please consider the mail-in ballot process,” said Anthony Gutierrez, Wicomico’s supervisor of elections, during a PAC14 interview. “It’s still the safest, quickest way for use to process your ballot.” 

People who want to vote in person may do so during early voting at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center or on Election Day at any of the seven voting centers in the county, but Gutierrez warns it may be a much slower process than usual. Each voting station must be cleaned after every person votes and voters must stand 6 feet apart while in line.

“Please consider not putting yourself in that situation,” he said.

Applying for a mail-in ballot

All registered voters have been mailed applications for mail-in ballots, but they also can be requested on the state elections website: elections.maryland.gov. The applications also are available by contacting the Wicomico County Board of Elections office, 345 Snow Hill Road, Salisbury, 410-548-4830.

Once an application is submitted, the elections office will mail out a ballot starting in late September or early October. The deadline to request a ballot is Oct. 20.

Gutierrez said anyone who applies for a ballot and then decides to vote in person will be given a provisional ballot at the poll as a way to ensure there are no duplicate votes.

Voting by mail-in ballot

After marking the ballots indicating their choice of candidates, voters need to sign the return envelope and seal it with the ballot inside.

The completed ballots can be deposited in one of the secure drop boxes located at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center, the Board of Elections office and the Wicomico County Tourism on North Salisbury Boulevard, all in Salisbury, and the Pittsville Volunteer Fire Department.

All of the drop boxes are under constant camera surveillance to prevent tampering.

In order to be counted, mail-in ballots must be postmarked no later than Nov. 3 and the oath on the postage-paid return envelope that arrives with the ballot must be signed. They will be counted as long as they are received by Friday, Nov. 13 — 10 days after the election.

Those who choose to cast their votes using ballot drop boxes must submit their completed ballots by the final collection time – 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 – in order for their ballot to count. 

Early voting

In-person early voting will take place over eight days at the Civic Center from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting on Monday, Oct. 26, and running through Monday, Nov. 2. Elections officials said they will accommodate anyone who wishes to cast their ballot safely and in person, but be prepared for long lines and a slow process.

To make in-person voting safe, voters must remain six feet apart and wear a mask. 

To maintain proper distancing, the number of voters permitted inside a voting center at one time may be limited, according to state elections officials.

Election Day voting

Polls on Tuesday, Nov. 3, will be open for in-person voting from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Wicomico County vote centers will be located at the Civic Center as well as six other locations in the county: James M. Bennett and Mardela high schools, Salisbury and Bennett middle schools, and Beaver Run and Pemberton elementary schools.

“The difference this year – one of the many differences – is that the voter on Election Day can go to any one of these vote centers,” Gutierrez said.

Vote centers are a new concept in Maryland this year, he said. County residents may go to any vote center in the county rather than report to an assigned polling place near their home as they have in previous elections.

Again, expect long, slow lines at the vote centers on Election Day, Gutierrez said.

Counting the ballots

The Maryland State Board of Elections is allowing county election offices to start scanning the mail-in ballots prior to the election, with the results embargoed until Election Night. That way mail-in votes can be included with the in-person vote counts from early voting and Election Day.

It’s not too late to register

Maryland residents who are U.S. citizens may register to vote online at elections.maryland.gov or in person at the Wicomico County Board of Elections office, 345 Snow Hill Road, Salisbury, through Oct. 13.

Residents also can go to a voting center during early voting or to their assigned polling place on Election Day and bring a document that proves where they live, such as a MVA-issued license, ID card, or change of address card or a paycheck, bank statement, utility bill or other government document with their name and address.

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