Arguments to challenge Maryland’s early counting of mail-in ballots set for this week

The Maryland Court of Appeals has pushed up the schedule for arguments in a challenge of a recent decision to count mail-in ballots early in Maryland. The decision comes after the State Board of Elections requested the court expedite the challenge filed by the Republican nominee for governor Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick).

The decision came on Friday, a day after the Maryland Court of Special Appeals denied a request from Cox and his attorneys to hit the pause button on the early counting of mail-in ballots until the decision is made on the challenge.

Those on both sides of the case have until Tuesday to file their initial briefs in the case, with responses to those due by this coming Thursday. Arguments in the case are set for Friday.

This all comes after the State Board of Elections convinced a Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge recently that a one-time exception should be made to allow for the early counting of mail-in ballots.

Previously, those ballots could not be counted until two days after the election, which the board argued would run the risk of delaying the certification of results in the upcoming November election.

Cox argues that the decision on when mail-in ballots should be counted should only fall to the general assembly and the governor. He also claimed the change violated the constitution.

The refusal of the special court of appeals to pause the counting allowed for early counting to begin on Saturday.

When reached for comment, Ed Hartman, an attorney for Cox, said while the stay wasn’t granted, the decision to speed up the case’s hearings shows that the court “clearly sees the need to address this important issue immediately.”

While counting was not stopped, Hartman told WTOP in an email that if the Montgomery County Circuit Court ruling is reversed, the opening of ballots early would be deemed illegal.

“It would be prudent for the BOE to wait until the ruling” Hartman stated.

WTOP reached out to the Maryland Board of Elections to ask if the counting of ballots might be delayed until after arguments in the case. Board spokesperson Bruce Miller responded by saying the board does not comment on legal matters.

Gilberto Zelaya a spokesperson with the Montgomery County Board of Elections said the canvassing of mail-in ballots has not yet begun. Zelaya said a schedule for canvassing is expected to be released this week.

Also in Prince George’s County, Board of Elections spokesperson Daneen Banks said counting has not begun and that mail-in ballots will be mailed out to resident’s this week.

“We anticipate beginning the canvass during the week of October 17th” Banks said.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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