Gov. Larry Hogan announced in a statement Wednesday that he’s directed the State Board of Elections to conduct normal, in person voting—as well as early voting—for the presidential election on November 3, “with enhanced voting options in light of the #COVID19 pandemic.”
In a letter to State Board of Elections Chairman Michael Cogan, Hogan said, “Every effort should be made to promote early voting, absentee voting by mail, and voting at off-peak times as safe and efficient options.”
Early voting centers and polling places should be open, and every eligible voter should receive an absentee ballot request application to vote by mail. We will strongly encourage early voting, absentee voting by mail, and voting at off-peak times as safe and efficient options.
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) July 8, 2020
“The fundamental responsibility of the State Board of Elections is to conduct free and fair elections in a manner that facilitates maximum voter participation,” Hogan said. “This approach—which is already fully authorized by existing state law—will maximize participation in the November election by offering voters more options while minimizing confusion and risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Because of the coronavirus’ unforeseeable future, some local leaders have taken to Twitter to express their dismay about Hogan stopping short of calling for universal mail-in-ballots in November, which would require the State Board of Elections to automatically mail all Maryland voters a ballot ahead of election day. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with Hogan’s decision.
Pres. Trump opposes mail in voting. In the midst of a pandemic, MD held two successful mail in elections this year. Now, Governor Hogan is following Trump’s lead and refusing to order mail in voting for the upcoming election. https://t.co/RGsChkvD7C
— Brian Frosh (@BrianFrosh) July 8, 2020
Montgomery County Councilmember Andrew Friedson tweeted that voting should be “as easy as possible.”
“And we need to follow the consensus of local elections experts and public health officials” Friedson tweeted.
This is disappointing. We need to make voting as easy as possible, as accessible as possible and as safe as possible. And we need to follow the consensus of local elections experts and public health officials.https://t.co/60P9xQqfCU
— Councilmember Andrew Friedson (@Andrew_Friedson) July 8, 2020
Instead of automatically mailing ballots, Hogan announced all eligible Maryland voters will be mailed applications for absentee ballot requests. Maryland voters can still request a mail-in-ballots online at anytime.
Unlike the upcoming November General Election, Maryland’s Presidential Primary Election on June 2 was primarily conducted through mail, but it was not without problems. For some voters in Montgomery County, mail-in-ballots were delayed. Also, because there was not early voting and because only four voting centers were open on the June 2 election day, Bethesda Beat reported many voters ended up waiting in long lines. Despite the obstacles, state election officials told Maryland Matters that the state had its highest voter turnout in a Primary Election since 2008.
In his letter to Cogan, Hogan said he wants the State Board of Elections “to conduct free and fair elections in a manner that facilitates maximum voter participation.” Hogan decided to keep all polling locations open on Election Day because he says he is “concerned about the series of failures that—while not intended—potentially resulted in the disenfranchisement and suppression of primary voters.”
.@GovLarryHogan sent a letter to Michael Cogan, chair of @md_sbe, directing state election officials to keep all polling places open on Election Day in November, and maintain early voting. Hogan is encouraging vote-by-mail, but stopped short of ordering universal mail-in-ballots. pic.twitter.com/38oKHuSc5x
— MyMCMedia (@mymcmedia) July 8, 2020
He argues his approach “will maximize participation in the November election by offering voters more options while minimizing confusion and risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
On Election Day in November, Hogan says, “Polling places should follow CDC guidelines and public health protocols, and stress the importance of proper sanitization, physical distancing, and face coverings.”
Hogan also defended himself against his critics.
“While I know you have been inundated with suggestions from political leaders in both parties and special interest groups to change the electoral process, this discussion should not be subject to undue partisanship or political influence,” Hogan said in his letter to Cogan. “Providing citizens with accessible, accountable, and transparent ways to cast their ballot is an essential component of our democratic republic and your primary responsibility.”
Montgomery County Elected Leaders Slam Hogan on Twitter
Several State Delegates representing Montgomery County have slammed Hogan’s decision to keep all polling locations open in the November election. Here’s a look at what they are tweeting:
Hogan has dismissed the recommendation of our state election experts by announcing that ballots will not be mailed to voters. Instead, voters will have to *request* a ballot, which the MD Assoc of Election Officials has warned is costly, burdensome and unsuccessful. https://t.co/JjCRizMYoj
— Jheanelle Wilkins (@JheanelleW) July 8, 2020
Also, opening and staffing every local polling place seems like a Herculean task. We certainly need more than during the primary, but every site?
— Marc Korman (@mkorman) July 8, 2020
This is unacceptable. Every voter should be mailed their ballot. https://t.co/qEMpxDEASm
— Jheanelle Wilkins (@JheanelleW) July 8, 2020
On one hand, election officials and advocates throughout the state told Governor Hogan that failing to mail ballots to every registered voter would yield “devastating consequences.”
On the other hand, his future rival Tucker Carlson thinks mail-in voting is a massive conspiracy. pic.twitter.com/CZgadcTTEr
— Vaughn Stewart (@DelegateStewart) July 8, 2020
Governor Hogan chooses a "normal election" for November instead of a by mail election. This is a mistake. https://t.co/nNaNBcgxIe
— Al Carr (@alfredcarr) July 8, 2020