Maryland Gov. Hogan: Every polling place should be open on Election Day

In a directive to the Maryland State Board of Elections, Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that every early voting center and every polling center should be open on Election Day so that any voter who wants to can cast their ballot in person.

Hogan also said that voters who prefer to vote by mail should be able to do so, and directed the state board to “promptly send out an absentee ballot request application to every eligible Maryland voter.”

Hogan said in his letter to Michael Cogan, the chair of the State Board of Elections, that his plan would “maximize participation” in the Nov. 3 election while “minimizing confusion and risk” as Maryland continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor cited problems in the June 2 primary, where thousands of Maryland voters got their ballots late — or not at all.

“I remain concerned about the series of failures that — while not intended — potentially resulted in the disenfranchisement and suppression of primary voters,” Hogan wrote.

In the letter, Hogan said state employees would be encouraged to help supplement election staffs and mentioned efforts to supply polling places with the needed personal protective equipment to conduct in-person voting.

Hogan said polling places should follow CDC guidelines, including encouraging social distancing, sanitizing and the use of face coverings.

Some state lawmakers and organizations shared reactions to Hogan’s plan on Wednesday.

In a joint statement, issued by Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones, lawmakers said they “share the concerns that local elections officials will not have the staff or resources to process” vote by mail applications “in a timely manner.”

Joanne Antoine, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, said the governor’s plan “creates an extra layer” in the process of voting.

Her organization had favored sending ballots directly to voters, eliminating the need for them to send in requests for absentee ballots.

“Now that there’s this extra layer, how quickly can the State Board [of Elections] get out applications? Will it come with prepaid postage?” she said.

Antoine added, “I think there’s concerns around how — especially on Election Day — how we expect to staff all of these precinct locations.”

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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