Common Cause Maryland Urges Local Boards of Election to make Adequate Number of Vote Centers Available for 2020 Primary Election

On April 3, 2020, the Maryland State Board of Elections submitted a Comprehensive Plan for the June 2020 Primary Election to Governor Hogan for consideration. The plan allows for limited in-person voting.

The State Board of Elections has tasked the local Boards of Election with establishing at least one but no more than four locations for voters to drop off ballots or, for voters who are unable to vote by mail, to vote in person. We understand this may be a difficult decision as they have to both ensure equitable access to our electoral systems and provide safe access to every eligible voter during this public health emergency. Every effort must be made to conduct our elections in a manner which will afford every eligible voter an opportunity to cast a ballot and provide election workers the protections they require to carry out this essential duty.

In order to effectively accommodate voters under this emergency expansion of absentee voting, we recommend Montgomery County, Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, and Baltimore County to establish the max number of Vote Centers allowed for the Primary Election. Additionally, we urge these Boards to select four locations that are accessible to voters using public transportation.

While most voters will deliver their absentee ballots by mail or at accessible drop off locations throughout these jurisdictions, providing less than four vote centers will disenfranchise voters who are not able to vote by mail. Specifically, we want to ensure that those seeking to use ballot marking devices, those experiencing issues with ballots (never received, incorrect ballot received, etc.), those wanting to register and vote, and those in need of assistance are all able to have access to voting.

We are committed to helping recruit election workers and will provide assistance where needed. We also share Board concerns about the protection of election workers and those entering vote centers. The Brennan Center’s memorandum on “How to Protect the 2020 Vote from the Coronavirus,” provides guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) provides information on steps that can be taken to prevent transmission of the virus, in compliance with the guidance issued by government health agencies. The Maryland Department of Health has also committed to assisting with the execution of the election.

Safeguarding our elections is essential to our democracy. Thank you to all local Boards of Election for their leadership during this time and for working to ensure every eligible Marylander can exercise their right to vote.