Maryland hoping to thwart ‘train wreck of an election’

Maryland residents who plan to vote in the General Election on Nov. 3 will be facing some unique challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as recent changes within the U.S. Postal Service that could delay delivery of mail-in ballots.

Concerns about “the impending train wreck of an election” were voiced by Comptroller Peter Franchot during the Aug. 12 Maryland Board of Public Works meeting, but state elections officials told him they are actively working to provide a safe and secure election.

Voters are strongly encouraged to vote by mail-in ballot to help prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Ballots should be mailed in early in case there are post office delays. Voters also will be able to bring their completed ballots to a drop box in the county to avoid the mail system altogether.

Voting in the General Election will be different than in June’s Maryland Primary. Here’s the latest on what voters need to know about mail-in ballots and in-person voting:

Obtaining a mail-in ballot

Registered voters will receive applications for mail-in ballots by mail beginning this week. The applications also may be downloaded on the state elections website: elections.maryland.gov.  The applications also are available at the Wicomico County Board of Elections office. Once the application is submitted, the local elections office will mail out a ballot in early to mid-September. The deadline to request a ballot is Oct. 20.

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. Elections officials stress that mailed ballots should be sent in as early as possible in the event of postal service delays. The ballots also can be placed in a secure drop box. In Wicomico County, boxes will be located at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center and at the Board of Elections office, 345 Snow Hill Road, Salisbury, approximately 30 days prior to the election.

Early voting

In-person early voting will take place at the Civic Center from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting on Monday, Oct. 26, and running through Monday, Nov. 2. State elections officials said they will accommodate anyone who wishes to cast their ballot safely and in person.

Election Day voting

Polls on Tuesday, Nov. 3, will be open for in-person voting from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. They will be located at the Civic Center and four other locations that will be determined soon.

Counting the ballots

Normally, absentee ballots are not counted until after the election, but that could change this year. The Maryland State Board of Elections is expected to allow county election offices to start scanning the mail-in ballots as soon as 30 days 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 your paycheck, bank statement, utility bill or other government document with their name and address.

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