Today, Marland PIRG sent Gov. Hogan a letter imploring him to instruct SBE to mail voters their ballots like he did for the primary. The letter was signed by voting rights allies including ACLU of MD, Baltimore Votes, Jews United for Justice, NARAL Pro-Choice MD, AFSCME Council 3, SEIU Maryland State Council, and others.
It is now abundantly clear that we cannot count on the public health threat of COVID-19 subsiding by November, nor for “all options” to be available to voters. On Monday Gov. Hogan authorized SBE to shift to vote centers due to a shortage of elections staff. The window is closing for the Gov. to step in and tell the Board of Elections to mail out ballots to voters like he did in the primary. Maryland PIRG and our allies have been calling on the Governor to mail out ballots to ensure Marylanders can safely participate in the election.
Under the current plan, elections staff are preparing for 50% of voters to show up in person to vote. We have supported the use of vote centers as a way to reduce voter confusion and streamline the election process for voters and staff if precinct level voting is not safe or logistically possible, but remain concerned about transportation issues and long lines.
The best way to protect voters right to participate in the November election without having to face long lines at limited locations is to mail voters a ballot. The Governor made the call to do so in the June primary and 95% of the ballots arrived without issue, 97% of voters opted to vote by mail, and we saw increased voter participation across the state, especially in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, communities with the highest Black and Brown populations. Mailing voters their ballots will reduce the number of voters showing up to vote in person, minimizing the risk of lines.
Voters deserve transparency and accountability for mail delays, printing errors, and long lines for the June primary. But the model and manner of the primary election was, and remains, the correct process for voting during a pandemic.
We are incredibly disappointed the SBE did not unanimously call on you to mail out ballots during the primary or for the general election, but Governor Hogan is the one with the legal authority to change the process to mail voters ballots. The window is closing for him to step in and tell the Board of Elections to do so.
The Governor showed strong leadership to protect our democracy when he chose to mail voters their ballots for the primary, and it’s not too late to do so again.
Regardless of the Governor’s decision, you should do your part to reduce lines and admiinstrative strain by requesting your ballot be sent to you by mail. The Baltimore Sun has put together some helpful instructions on how to vote by mail.
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, there will be limited in-person polling options for the November election. Tell Governor Hogan to help protect health and reduce lines: he should mail voters their ballots, like he did for the primary.
State Director, Maryland PIRG
Emily directs strategy, organizational development, research, communications and legislative advocacy for Maryland PIRG. Emily has helped win small donor public financing in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County. She has played a key role in establishing new state laws to to protect public health by restricting the use of antibiotics on Maryland farms, require testing for lead in school drinking water and restrict the use of toxic flame retardant and PFAS chemicals. Emily also serves on the Executive Committees of the Maryland Fair Elections Coalition and the Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working. Emily lives in Baltimore City with her husband, kids, and dog.