Voting Rights Groups Urge Board of Elections to Take Mitigating Actions

The Maryland State Board of Elections is holding an emergency meeting today at 4:30 pm to consider changes for the June 2, 2020 election. Because of a week-long delay in mailing ballots to Baltimore, some city voters may not receive them in time to vote by mail.

Today, Common Cause Maryland, the League of Women Voters of Maryland and MarylandPIRG have urged the Board to take specific mitigating actions, as outlined in the letter below.

The Board’s Emergency Meeting begins at 4:30pm today, May 20, and will be livestreamed on their webpage. (Video is at the bottom of the page).

May 20, 2020

Members, Maryland State Board of Elections
151 West Street, Suite 200
Annapolis, MD 21401
cc: Linda H. Lamone, State Administrator

RE: Proposed changes to mitigate week-long delay in mailing of ballots

Dear Chairman and Members of the Board:

Although the State Board of Elections has taken some appropriate steps to address the weeklong delay of mail-in ballots in Baltimore City, additional immediate steps are needed to ensure every City voter is provided with ample time and access to voting in the Primary Election.

Baltimore City, a jurisdiction that is made up of primarily Black voters with one of the most critical elections in the state, will have less time to vote their ballot by June 2nd because of delays in ballot delivery. We know from the 7th Congressional District special general election that nearly 80% of ballot rejections were because the ballot was mailed or delivered late. The delay in mailing ballots to voters leaves little or no time for voters to get replacement ballots if theirs do not arrive.

The late ballot delivery is also a problem because we know a number of ballots will not be successfully delivered to voters due to bad addresses. All of these factors, in addition to the limited investment being made in voter outreach and education in the City and throughout the state, leave Baltimore voters at a disadvantage. In order to ensure all eligible voters can participate in the June 2nd primary, the Board must take immediate steps to address these issues. We urge you to consider our recommendations outlined below:

Vote Centers

  • Make two additional in-person vote centers available on Election Day. We ask that the local board of elections consider making these two vote centers the Training Center in Pimlico and the League for People with Disabilities, helping to close the gap in distance of vote centers and making them more accessible to Baltimore City voters.
  • Make in-person vote centers available prior to Election Day. Vote centers should be open from at least Friday, May 29th until Election Day. These centers should be open from 7am-8pm, providing voters who don’t receive their ballots with ample time to vote in-person.

Extend Deadline for Electronic Ballot Delivery

  • Baltimore City voters who are unable to vote in person must be provided with more time to access an electronic ballot. We urge the Board to extend the current May 29th deadline to Election Day.
  • We also urge the local board of elections to look into ways to assist voters who have no access to a printer. We encourage local boards to be allowed to open for curbside printing and delivery of replacement ballots and voter registration forms and to work with community groups to help voters get registered and get their ballots.

Extend Deadline for Ballot Acceptance

  • Accept ballots that are postmarked by Election Day (or in the hands of the post office by Election Day) to be counted if received by the second Friday after Election Day, June 12, 2020.

We understand that you and your staff have been given a very difficult task, but we must do all that we can to ensure Baltimore City voters have equitable access to voting. We hope that you will consider our recommendations in order to provide relief for the error that has taken place.

Thank you,

Joanne Antoine, Common Cause Maryland
Lois Hybl, League of Women Voters of Maryland
Emily Scarr, Maryland PIRG