Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Cox said Thursday he was seeking to intervene in Maryland election officials’ legal effort to count mail-in ballots early in the upcoming November election — a move that election workers and observers have pushed for, but one that Cox claims would break state law.
Cox, a lawyer and freshman delegate who has sued state government in the past, said he filed a motion opposing the Maryland State Board of Elections’ petition ahead of a scheduled hearing on the matter next week in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
The four-member board unanimously decided last month to take the issue to court after an influx of mail-in ballots led to days, and in some cases weeks, of delays in determining results after the July 19 primary.
Mail-in ballots can only be opened beginning two days after Election Day under state law — the latest schedule in the country for opening such ballots.
When vote-by-mail increased in popularity during the pandemic, an executive order from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan allowed mail-in ballots to be opened and processed weeks in advance of Election Day. When the General Assembly tried to cement that change in the law earlier this year, Hogan vetoed the bill because he said it did not have other measures necessary for election security.
Cox, in opposing the board’s petition for emergency relief, is claiming only the General Assembly can change the law.
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“The emergency declaration expired earlier this year,” he said in a statement. “There is no ‘emergency’. There are no more excuses for not following the law.”
Cox, an ally of former Republican President Donald Trump who helped spread the president’s baseless claims of widespread election fraud in 2020, also said the board’s effort to change the timeline through the court “further undermines trust in the outcome of elections.”
In fact, the late counting of legitimate mail-in ballots in states like Pennsylvania in 2020 was a primary mechanism for Trump and his allies to claim fraud was occurring. There has been no evidence of widespread fraud in Maryland elections.
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore has said he supports the earlier counting of mail ballots and there’s no basis for Cox to cast doubts on the election process.
A hearing on the board’s petition is scheduled for Tuesday.
Mail-in ballots — the method of voting used by a third of the electorate during the primary — are expected to be sent out as early as the end of the month. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Nov. 1.
One week of in-person early voting begins Oct. 27, and Election Day is Nov. 8.