With new districts set, Md. election officials ‘working long hours’ to prepare for primary

This article was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

This content was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

With the delayed July 19 primary just 12 weeks away and redistricting challenges settled, Maryland election officials are working overtime to get ready for the fast-approaching election.

Implementing redistricting plans is “meticulous and time-consuming work,” said Baltimore County Elections Director Ruie Lavoie. Creating precincts using new redistricting plans is a street-by-street process, and election officials couldn’t finish that work until state, local and congressional maps were final.

There is much left to do to ensure every Maryland voter casts the correct ballot, Lavoie said.

“We have about 700,000 addresses to look at in Baltimore County,” Lavoie said, adding that election officials are “working long hours” to prepare for the election.

Earlier this year — amid challenges to local, state and federal maps — election officials warned that the workload would be heavy. The Court of Appeals postponed the primary from June 28 to July 19 as those challenges worked their way through the courts.

Challenges to local maps in Baltimore and Prince George’s counties wrapped up in March, but it wasn’t until state legislative and congressional maps were finalized this month that election officials could begin creating precincts: The General Assembly drew a new congressional map after a judge struck down the original plan as a partisan gerrymander, and Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) signed that map into law on April 4 after the parties agreed to settle. The Court of Appeals upheld the state legislative map on April 13.

Alisha L. Alexander, director of the Prince George’s County Board of Elections, called redistricting a “tedious process that typically takes months to complete.”

“After the court ruled on the legislative maps, our staff has been working tirelessly to review the language in the law, maps and the street files so that we can accurately determine the new boundary lines,” Alexander said in an emailed statement. “We will do what we can to complete the process in time to notify voters of any district and precinct changes prior to the 2022 Primary Election.”

Nikki Charlson, deputy administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections, said staffs are dealing with a compressed timeline to complete the necessary work.

“This is a time-consuming and manual process, and local election officials are working long hours to complete a months-long process in several weeks,” Charlson said.

Beyond implementing redistricting plans, election officials also need to find polling places, allocate voting equipment and find election judges before the primary, Charlson said.

“Although there is much work left to be done, we will continue to work closely with local boards of elections to ensure that Maryland voters have the opportunity to participate fully in the election process,” she said.

Lavoie said she’s encouraging the use of mail-in ballots or early voting, since those methods don’t rely on a specific polling place.

“When you vote early, it doesn’t matter which early voting center you choose to go to,” she said.

Early voting centers statewide will have ballots for every precinct within their jurisdiction.

And “if you vote early during the eight days of early voting, you minimize the chance of going to the wrong polling place,” Lavoie added.

For the primary election, early voting will be held from July 7 to July 14 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

To get a mail-in ballot by mail or online, the state or local election board must receive the request by July 12. Voters will also be able to pick up their ballot at their local board of elections if that deadline has passed, according to the State Board of Elections. Details, as well as deadlines for election officials to receive mail-in ballot requests, are available on the Maryland State Board of Elections website.

The deadline to register to vote or update voter registration information is June 28, although voters can also take advantage of same-day registration at early voting centers or their polling location on election day. Learn more about registering to vote here.

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