Md. Board of Elections petitions court to allow pre-Election Day ballot canvassing

The Maryland State Board of Elections on Monday announced it will file an emergency petition in Circuit Court to allow canvassing and processing of the state’s mail-in ballots prior to Election Day.

Maryland law does not permit the processing of absentee/mail ballots by local election boards until 10 a.m. on Thursday after an election. It is the only U.S. state that does not allow processing of mail-in ballots until after Election Day.

In a news release, the SBE said that due to the great expansion of mail-in balloting over the last few years, those prohibitions could cause significant delays in certifying federal, state and local results.

That sort of delay happened in Montgomery County; counting in the July 19 primary for county executive between Marc Elrich and David Blair was too close to call until the Aug. 13 certification.

Before the pandemic, Maryland State Sen. Cheryl Kagan told WTOP last month, mail-in ballots constituted 2% to 3% of the total. That’s exploded in recent years — in many races this year, mail-in ballots outweighed in-person votes.

The General Assembly passed a bill this year to allow for processing of ballots before Election Day; Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed it.



Across the United States, mail-in and absentee balloting has become increasing popular, most notably during the 2020 election when fears of COVID-19 exposure were most prevalent.

By SBE’s estimate, the delays for this year’s election could go as far as December 2022 or early January 2023.

All four members of the SBE voted in support of the motion, according to the release.

The SBE said it will file the petition “with sufficient time for the court to consider the request and for the local boards of elections to plan for pre-Election Day canvassing.”

Joshua Barlow

Joshua Barlow is a writer, composer, and producer who has worked for CGTN, Atlantic Public Media, and National Public Radio. He lives in Northeast Washington, D.C., where he pays attention to developments in his neighborhood, economic issues, and social justice.

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