Common Cause Maryland reminds voters and the media that it will take several days – or weeks, in larger counties – for election results to be finalized. Under Maryland state law, elections officials must wait until the day after polls close before they can start opening mail ballot envelopes and checking that voters have signed their oaths. Governor Larry Hogan vetoed a bill that would have allowed elections officials to begin pre-processing mail ballots before the polls close.
Thirty-eight states explicitly authorize election officials to begin processing mail-in ballots prior to the election; in two other states and Puerto Rico, there is no statutory restriction on when processing may start. Nine states and Washington, D.C. permit election officials to begin processing mail-in ballots on Election Day, but prior to the closing of the polls. Maryland is the only state that does not permit the processing of mail-in ballots until after the polls close on Election Day.
In 2020, more than half of all Maryland ballots were cast by mail, and today’s election may exceed that rate.
Statement of Common Cause Maryland Policy & Engagement Manager Morgan Drayton
Marylanders need to know that it will take several days – or longer – to get all the results from today’s election.
Unfortunately, Gov. Hogan vetoed a bill that would have allowed faster results. Without that change to state law, election officials can’t even begin to open the envelopes of mail ballots until tomorrow.
Pennsylvania is another state that does not allow pre-processing of mail ballots, and their primary election results were delayed for the same reason. Opening ballots, verifying that voters have signed their ballot oath, checking to make sure every voter only casts one ballot – all of that takes time. And election officials can’t begin that part of their job until tomorrow.
For some races, the media will be able to ‘call’ election results faster than others. Races where there is a large margin of victory are usually ‘called’ before all the ballots are counted. For closer elections, it will take more time. In Pennsylvania, this year, it took three weeks before voters knew who won the Republican Senate primary.
Again, this delay could have been avoided if Gov. Hogan had signed the bill. We hope the Legislature will pass legislation to fix the problem again next year.