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Election rights advocates call for Maryland to send ballots by mail in June primary

Several groups advocating for election rights have delivered a letter to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan urging him to offer widespread voting by mail in the June primary and to establish a voting rights task force.

The letter was signed by Common Cause Maryland, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, Maryland Public Interest Research Group and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. It calls for the state to conduct its primary by mail.

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Hogan, a Republican, announced Tuesday he was delaying the state’s April 28 primary until June 2 in response to the new coronavirus. A special general election to select someone to fill the remainder of the late Elijah Cummings’ congressional seat remains scheduled for April 28, but will be conducted by mail-only balloting.

The groups behind the letter said they were encouraged by Hogan’s emergency measures in response to the virus, but remained concerned about the safety of poll workers and voters — even in a delayed primary. Maryland’s poll workers, most of whom are senior citizens and at higher risk if they contract the virus, are likely to stay home, leaving polls understaffed, the letter stated.

The letter, dated Wednesday, called on Hogan to send absentee ballots to all registered voters in the state for the June primary, while also offering voting centers that would operate like early voting locations. That would allow voters to still take advantage of same-day registration and receive assistance.

In an interview Tuesday with MSNBC, Hogan was asked if he would consider a mail-only ballot for the next election. He said he was “open to all suggestions.”

The letter also asked Hogan to establish a task force, including voting rights advocates, public health officials and local election officials, to consult with the state Board of Elections.

“Input from trusted voting rights advocates will help ensure these elections are conducted in an equitable and accessible way that does not disenfranchise Maryland voters," they said.

Hogan’s spokesman, Michael Ricci, reiterated Thursday that the governor directed the state board to develop a comprehensive plan for the June primary by April 3 for his review.

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