Maryland governor says all polling locations will be open to in-person voters in November

Maryland governor says all polling locations will be open to in-person voters in November
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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Wednesday that all polling locations will be open to in-person voters in November, while encouraging early and absentee voting. 

The Maryland governor instructed election officials in a letter to ensure that every early voting center and polling location be open on Nov. 3 “to accommodate anyone who wishes to cast their ballot safely and in person.” 

Hogan also directed the State Board of Elections to send out an absentee ballot request to every eligible voter. He added that “every effort should be made to promote early voting, absentee voting by mail, and voting at off-peak times as safe and efficient options.”

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“The fundamental responsibility of the State Board of Elections is to conduct free and fair elections in a manner that facilitates maximum voter participation,” Hogan said in the letter. “This approach—which is already fully authorized by existing state law—will maximize participation in the November election by offering voters more options while minimizing confusion and risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The governor said the state will urge its employees to help fill in staffing needs for the election and will provide personal protective equipment. The polling locations are instructed to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and “stress the importance” of sanitization, social distancing and face coverings. 

“While I know you have been inundated with suggestions from political leaders in both parties and special interest groups to change the electoral process, this discussion should not be subject to undue partisanship or political influence,” Hogan told the election officials. “Providing citizens with accessible, accountable, and transparent ways to cast their ballot is an essential component of our democratic republic and your primary responsibility.”

Hogan’s decision diverges from how the state handled its primary election last month when all ballots were mailed to eligible voters, no matter if they requested them. But Maryland experienced several problems with a primarily vote-by-mail election as ballots arrived late or never arrived for some voters, The Baltimore Sun reported

Hogan blasted the mishaps in his letter to officials, saying, "This was and remains completely unacceptable."

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Despite the issues, Maryland’s primary saw high turnout with the few in-person voting centers being backed up with long lines, sometimes taking voters an hour or more to get to the ballot box. 

Maryland voters are already permitted to request an absentee ballot without providing a reason. 

Local election officials have expressed concerns over holding in-person elections, saying last month they would be “set up to fail” if they had to conduct a regular election. Joanne Antoine, a voting rights advocate, told the Sun that the decision would cause “chaos” with attempts to find enough election workers.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE and other Republicans have cautioned against mail-in voting, saying it allows for voter fraud.