In the wake of the June 2nd primary elections, which saw long lines at polling places, Maryland voting rights organizations today urged Governor Larry Hogan to “immediately instruct” the State Board of Elections (SBE) regarding planning for November 3rd. The groups urged Gov. Hogan to direct the SBE “to mail every active voter a ballot and expand in-person and early voting options.” The full letter is below.
Statement by Joanne Antoine, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it new challenges to virtually every aspect of our lives — including how we conduct elections. Voting should be accessible for all eligible Marylanders — whether they’re a nurse working overtime, a parent balancing their job responsibilities and childcare, or a senior.
The past few months have seen breakdowns in elections systems around the country: long lines, missing or uncounted absentee ballots, unexpected polling place closures and consolidations without proper communication to voters. This doesn’t belong in a 21st-century democracy.
Many of these problems were caused by a lack of planning. It has been challenging, for everyone, to adapt our elections systems so that people can vote safely during the pandemic. No one should have to choose between their health and their right to vote.
The State Board of Elections needs to start planning immediately for the November 3rd election. In order for them to begin their work, we need Gov. Hogan to immediately direct them to plan for another mail-based election, by sending ballots to every active voter. We also need him to direct the SBE to provide more in-person voting sites.
We also call on Gov Hogan to create a Task Force to advise the SBE in planning and assist with voter education. The Tash Force should include voting rights experts as well as advocates, to represent voters’ perspectives during the planning process. It’s just natural that the people using a system focus on different things than the administrators running it. Elections officials tend to focus on things like adequate power sources, while voters are concerned about details like parking lot capacity. Proper planning needs both perspectives — which is why we urge Gov Hogan to create a Task Force to assist the SBE.
Letter from the organizations:
June 26th, 2020
The Honorable Larry Hogan
Governor, State of Maryland
100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401
cc: Members, Maryland State Board of Elections and Linda H. Lamone, Administrator
Dear Governor Hogan,
Thank you for instructing the State Board of Elections (SBE) to shift our June primary to vote-by-mail to ensure Marylanders could safely participate in the election. We write to request that you instruct SBE to conduct November’s Election through vote-by-mail with in-person early voting options and expanded in-person voting locations on Election Day for those who need to vote in-person.
Most Maryland voters were able to safely participate in the June primaries through vote-by-mail. However, the very short timeline to shift to a completely new voting process as well as an insufficient number of in-person voting options led to numerous avoidable problems. The state should learn from those mistakes, and one critical first step to protect Marylanders’ right to safely participate in our democracy is a clear direction from you to the SBE now on how to start planning and preparing for the November election.
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, we cannot assume it will be safe to run our November elections with predominantly in person voting. We do know that delaying the decision will jeopardize SBE’s ability to run a safe, secure and efficient election process, and could lead to even more problems than those experienced in the Primary Election.
We strongly urge you to immediately instruct SBE to mail every active voter a ballot and expand in-person and early voting options.
Vote-by-mail is a safe, secure way for eligible voters to participate in elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as was evidenced by the June primary turnout, we need more in-person voting options for people who are unable to vote by mail because they need assistance, need to register to vote, or did not receive their ballot.
Our groups have a series of additional suggestions to ensure our November elections are accessible and secure; but the most important thing you can do now is to instruct the SBE to mail every active voter a ballot and expand in-person and early voting options.
Emily Scarr, Maryland PIRG
Joanne Antoine, Common Cause Maryland
Reverend Kobi Little
Dana Vickers Shelley, ACLU of Maryland
Lois Hybl & Richard Willson, League of Women Voters of Maryland
David Prater, Disability Rights Maryland
To download a copy of the letter, click here