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Editorial

Coronavirus crisis brings out the best in Gov. Hogan | COMMENTARY

If there’s one area in which Gov. Larry Hogan really excels, it’s in a crisis. His leadership during the spread of coronavirus in Maryland has been calming, decisive and largely spot on.

On Tuesday, he postponed Maryland’s primary to June 2 from April 28, joining a handful of other states — including Georgia, Louisiana and Ohio — that have taken similar action. It was a necessary move to preserve both election integrity and citizen safety, to the extent that either is possible amid a pandemic.

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The April 28th special election to select a replacement for the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District will go forward, but through absentee ballots and mail-in votes, so that region of the state doesn’t go without representation for any longer than it’s already had to.

“It would endanger public health to allow thousands of people to assemble in places like schools and senior centers, which are already closed under the state of emergency," Mr. Hogan said during a press conference, noting that poll workers and election judges are often retirees and in the “most vulnerable” population.

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“Free and fair elections are the very foundation of American Democracy," Governor Hogan said. "And while there are many valid reasons for unease and uncertainty right now, ensuring that the voices of Maryland citizens are heard shouldn’t be one of them.”

We couldn’t agree more. Mr. Hogan has directed the State Board of Elections to develop a “comprehensive plan” by April 3 to carry out a June primary. We strongly encourage the board to consider an all-mail election at that time, as well. We don’t know how long social distancing will be the norm in Maryland, and we shouldn’t risk upending the next primary date if it can be avoided.

In addition to the election decisions, Governor Hogan announced an inspired plan to transform emissions testing sites into drive-through coronavirus testing spots. While we don’t yet have the testing capabilities to implement such an idea, it’s a smart choice for when we do. The sites are built to handle lines of cars and move people through as quickly as possible. And we trust that all delayed vehicle emissions tests will eventually come due.

Governor Hogan also said he sent a letter to the Trump administration, asking that the October deadline for compliance with the federal “Real ID” requirement be extended in our state and beyond. This is the kind of thinking ahead that should be happening on all levels of government.

Within Maryland, state and local officials should be coordinating efforts where practicable, so counties and municipalities are not sending mixed messages or racing one another to implement their own versions of health restrictions. Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, for example, issued an executive order Monday prohibiting the gathering of 50 or more people at all locations exactly one hour before Governor Hogan issued the same order, but statewide.

It would be one thing if we had a governor unwilling to take bold and unprecedented actions amid the dangers we now face, but that’s not the case with Mr. Hogan, who is now making major announcements on a daily basis. Yesterday, he ordered the closure of bars, gyms, movie theaters and restaurant dining rooms, in anticipation of soaring coronavirus numbers (they were up 54% within 24 hours). And on Sunday, he shuttered casinos, race tracks and off-site betting facilities. He also is in talks to postpone The Preakness Stakes to sometime in September.

His administration should be keeping localities appraised of all such proposed changes and vice versa to avoid confusion.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that we’re in this for the long haul and will face new challenges each day.

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But, as Governor Hogan said: “If we rely on and help each other, we will get through this crisis.”

The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.


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