• Stephen Buckingham

Mail-In Ballot 411

Our efforts to encourage voting and increase turnout in the General Election are focusing on strategies that maximize voter safety while overcoming obstacles to voting. For this reason, we are urging people to use the mail-in ballot option to avoid long lines at polling places, either during early voting or on Election Day. This is all the more important since election boards are struggling to find enough election judges to staff every polling place, and it is likely that many will be consolidated. 

However, mail-in voting has its own issues, including concerns about mail delivery, and we have just learned of another factor that could impede the count itself. It turns out that mail-in ballots that are printed out at the voter's home and mailed in cannot be scanned directly by the existing machines. 

Unlike the primary in June, the Maryland State Board of Elections will be mailing absentee ballot requests -- not an actual ballot -- to all registered voters very soon. However, you can already go online and request a mail-in ballot by completing a form that includes information from your driver's license or other ID. No matter which method you use, when you request your ballot, you will be given the option to have your absentee ballot sent to you by mail or electronically. If you choose to receive it by email, you will need to print out the ballot and send it to the Maryland State Board of Elections.

While having your ballot sent electronically seems like it would be a quicker method to vote, these print-outs cannot be recorded by scanning them with the machines at the Board of Elections. To record your vote, staff must transfer your marks from the document you sent to an official paper ballot before scanning. This requires two Board staff, one from each party, to spend time processing all ballots printed by voters at home. The number of home-printed ballots that were processed in this manner for the primary was 400,000, and the General Election numbers will be much higher. We want to avoid this if possible, since it slows the vote count and could prevent the final vote from being completed in a timely manner.

Good news, though, you can avoid this additional step by requesting that a paper ballot be mailed to you using the US Postal Service (see below). This also helps the Post Office which has had a drop in volume during the pandemic. And we urge voters to complete and mail their ballots immediately upon receipt in order to avoid any backlogs at the USPS just before Election Day.

Please Click Here to request an absentee ballot

Request Your Absentee Ballot

Reminders and Important Dates:

If you would like to vote by mail, you can request an absentee ballot online by October 27, 2020. You can check your voter registration address here.

If you need to register to vote or update your current address, you must do so by Tuesday, October 13, 2020. Or you may exercise your right to “same day” register and vote during the early voting period and on election day. You can find further guidance on this process here.  

If you are unable to vote by mail, you must vote in-person during the early vote period or on election day at your designated polling location in your jurisdiction. 

Here are some additional resources:

  • If you need to register to vote, click here.

  • To check your voter registration, text CHECK to 77788 or visit this link

  • If you are registered to vote and need to check that your address is up to date, click here.

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