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Maryland elections board to recommend no in-person voting for June primary

Emily Opilo, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

"I appreciate that things are changing, but at some point we have to make a decision," Charlson said.

"Do you feel we can safely and practically have early voting with early voting centers for the June election?" asked board member William Voelp. "Is that safe and practical?"

Charlson said such an election would be "challenged" by the lack of equipment to reduce the exposure poll workers would have to the virus, which has already sickened hundreds of Marylanders and killed four people in the state.

A survey of the state's existing poll workers showed 40% could not work a proposed early voting period in late May and 20% were unwilling or unable to serve at polling enters during the June 2 primary. That likely will get worse as more people get sick, Charlson said.

"I can't vote to put our people in harm's way without equipment," Voelp said.

Ultimately, board members agreed to recommend against in-person voting, although they did not take a final vote. Board of elections staff members are expected to finalize the plan with the board's guidance and present it April 2 to the board for a vote -- the day before it is due to the governor.

 

Board Chairman Michael Cogan said the plan needs to be presented to the governor with an urgent recommendation that every measure be taken to publicize the changes to the state's standard election plan.

"We are changing the way people in Maryland are accustomed to voting, and we're changing it in a big way," he said. "We've got to get it out on every platform."

The draft plan presented to the board Wednesday included numerous concerns raised by state elections officials about the complications of changing voting procedures on short notice. Among them was the need to dramatically increase Maryland's mail-in voting capacity.

Maryland already allows voting by mail with absentee ballots, which voters can get simply by filling out an application.

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