Montgomery Co. receives nearly 326,000 mail-in ballot requests to date

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many people in Montgomery County, Maryland, appear to be choosing to vote in the November election by mail.

Marylanders who want a mail-in ballot have to request one, and Montgomery County residents have been doing that in droves.

“As of (Wednesday), we’ve had 325,998 requests for ballots and we have processed and sent to the state all but about 50,000 that are being worked on now,” Montgomery County Board of Elections president Jim Shalleck told the county council during its virtual meeting Thursday.

“Once we send them to the state, the state will then send out the ballots. Many people have gotten ballots. As a matter of fact, as we talk, we have received 4,293 votes. So it’s starting to come in and it’s going to pick up very, very heavy,” he added.

The county plans to eventually have 50 ballot drop-boxes, and at least half are already in place.

Early, in-person voting in the county starts Oct. 26 and will continue through Nov. 2 at 11 sites. On Election Day, the number of county voting centers will jump to about 40.

When the state’s early voting plan was first announced, Shalleck was worried about finding enough election judges.

“That has turned out not to be the case. People in this county have stepped up big time. We’re going to have 3,419 judges for early voting, and on Election Day — because it’s only one day — we’re going to have 2,200 election judges.” said Shalleck.

Although the county is still looking for Republican and bilingual judges, Shalleck said voting centers will be fully staffed.

During Thursday’s meeting, Shalleck was asked if the board has prepared for the possibility of voter intimidation, following President Donald Trump’s remark during Tuesday’s debate that people should “go into the polls and watch very carefully.”

“I’m telling you, our board has zero…zero tolerance for any intimidation or wrongdoing at the polls,” Shalleck said. “Once we get any indication of improprieties or intimidation, we will send staff there to see if it can be resolved. If not, it will become a police matter.”

He said police have been notified of the location of every voting center and ballot drop box, and they are making adjustments so that they can frequently patrol in those areas.

Board member Gilberto Zelaya said it is possible to become a poll watcher, but to do so you must make arrangements in advance.

“The election observation individuals must contact the state board of elections or the local board of elections to apply,” he said. “Those individuals cannot just show up.”

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