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Maryland elections chief: ‘We are just about ready to rock and roll’

Baltimore Sun's political reporter Emily Opilo, outline some important dates and deadlines for voting in Maryland.

Maryland’s top elections official said Wednesday that things so far are going according to plan for this fall’s general election.

“We’re well underway. We are just about ready to rock and roll here," said Linda Lamone, administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections.

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Speaking during a state Board of Public Works online meeting, Lamone said elections workers are busy processing requests for mailed ballots, receiving completed ballots and preparing for in-person voting.

The first batch of ballot drop boxes have been set up around the state, with more expected to be in place later this month.

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Elections officials are seeing a “phenomenal” number of requests for mailed ballots. Every registered voter in Maryland was sent a request form for a mailed ballot, also called an absentee ballot. Ballots also can be requested online.

With the coronavirus pandemic unabated, record numbers of voters are interested in receiving ballots in the mail instead of voting in person.

So far, elections officials have processed more than 1.2 million applications for mailed ballots. Those applications are processed at a data center set up at the Motor Vehicle Administration headquarters in Glen Burnie.

“They’re doing a fabulous job, averaging about 7,000 applications a day,” Lamone said.

Already about 800,000 ballots have been shipped out to voters, a process that began Sept. 24 and will continue until about 10 days before Election Day on Nov. 3.

The state is using a Minnesota-based company, Taylor Corp., to print and mail the ballots at a maximum cost of $7 million. The state had to modify the contract with Taylor after another vendor that was supposed to perform part of the work quit. The Board of Public Works approved the new contract Wednesday.

Nikki Charlson, deputy state elections administrator, said the process of mailing ballots is going well so far.

“We are sending files regularly and they are shipping them regularly,” she said.

Right now, the state and local elections boards are focused on educating voters on how to register to vote and how to request ballots in the mail. Soon the educational messaging will shift to how to return ballots and how to vote in person during early voting and on Election Day.

Local elections boards are counting absentee ballots as they are returned, with results kept confidential until after the polls close Nov. 3. Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County were the first to start tallying those ballots, starting on Monday.

“Allowing them to start early will help us ensure we will have meaningful results on election night,” Lamone said.

The three members of the Board of Public Works indicated they do not plan to vote in person this fall.

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Treasurer Nancy Kopp, a Democrat, said she already returned her ballot. Comptroller Peter Franchot, also a Democrat, said his ballot was filled out and he planned to submit it to a drop box in Takoma Park.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said he had just received his mailed ballot.

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