The Maryland Board of Elections voted Wednesday to proceed with a plan to open around 80 voting centers for in-person early voting between Oct. 26 and Nov. 2 as a precaution against long lines on Election Day during a pandemic.
The centers will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Marylanders will be able to choose which center they go to, as long as it is in their county of residence.
The early voting centers will also be open on Election Day, which is Nov. 3. About 350 voting centers will be open statewide that day, according to the Board of Elections. Maryland residents will again be able to decide which center in their county they go to, instead of having an assigned voting center.
The Board of Elections also said it plans to make at least 127 ballot drop boxes available across the state.
Gov. Larry Hogan was critical of the board’s plan but ultimately gave it the go-ahead to proceed with the voting-center model for the election.
“I remain concerned that the Board’s decision to close nearly 80% of the polls will have the potential of creating long lines and unsafe conditions, with crowds of people being forced into too few polling places,” Hogan wrote.
Marylanders are still being encouraged to vote by mail in the upcoming election. Applications for mail-in ballots will be sent out to all state residents by the end of the month, according to the board.
The last day to request a mail-in ballot is Oct. 20.
“While we encourage Marylanders to cast mail-in ballots, providing nine days of in-person voting gives Marylanders the opportunity to vote in-person if they wish to do so,” Linda Lamone, administrator of the Board of Elections, said in a news release.
There is also a push to recruit as many election judges as possible ahead of Election Day. Those who serve as judges can earn up to $300 “for their service answering democracy’s call,” according to the board.
State employees can earn 16 hours of administrative leave for serving as election workers.
Those interested are asked to apply online on the Maryland Board of Elections website.
WTOP’s Rick Massimo and Mike Murillo contributed to this report.