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Received? Accepted? How to decipher the status of your Maryland vote-by-mail ballot.

This week marks the deadline for Maryland voters to submit their mail-in ballot requests, the first critical step to casting a ballot without having to make an appearance at an in-person voting center this fall.

The vote-by-mail option, which has been popular this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, can eliminate the anxiety of standing in line to vote, but it also requires voters, particularly those eager to track the status of their ballots, to learn a whole new election lexicon.

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You can track the status of your ballot on the State Board of Elections website, but be warned, the statuses are not thoroughly defined on the platform. And election officials warn they may not be immediately updated, even if a ballot has been processed.

That said, here’s a key to reading the status of your ballot online.

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If your ballot application has been “processed”:

This one is pretty self-explanatory. All registered voters were sent ballot applications this fall and were required to return them either online or via hard copy before a ballot could be issued to them.

Once your ballot application has been received by your local election board, your status online will switch to “processed.”

State officials warn that this will not happen immediately. Many local election boards have a backlog of requests, and the state has created a central data center to help process them. It could take two weeks or more for your request to be processed, state officials said this week.

If your ballot has been “sent”:

Once your ballot has been mailed to you, your status will change to “sent.” Voters who requested their ballot via email, should see a status that says “ballot link sent by email” once their ballot has been sent.

If your ballot has been “received”:

Received status means your local election board has physical possession of the ballot and scanned a bar code on the return envelope into its database. Received status is a good sign. It means your ballot didn’t get lost in transit.

However, this scanning doesn’t happen the instant ballots arrived at the election boards. Boards across the state “quarantined” ballots after they arrived during the primary, meaning they sat for 12 to 24 hours as a precaution because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An enormous influx of ballots to election boards not accustomed to such volume also could contribute to some ballots not being scanned immediately.

Each District 1 ballot is stamped at the Baltimore City Board of Elections warehouse where workers are manually copying and rescanning ballots which were counted incorrectly due to a printing error which misaligned the ballot. June 4, 2020
Each District 1 ballot is stamped at the Baltimore City Board of Elections warehouse where workers are manually copying and rescanning ballots which were counted incorrectly due to a printing error which misaligned the ballot. June 4, 2020 (Amy Davis)

If your ballot has been “accepted”:

Accepted status means your ballot has been counted by your local canvassing board.

This doesn’t mean the results of the races have been certified, but accepted status does typically appear closer to the end of the canvassing process, said Nikki Charlson, the state’s deputy administrator of elections.

Some local elections boards moved quickly to add the “accepted" designation to ballots that have been counted. But each county board does it differently, Charlson said.

If you have no idea how to look for your ballot status:

Maryland offers a tool to look up information about your voter registration and ballot status here. You’ll need your name, date of birth and ZIP code.

Once you’ve entered you identifying information, go to the tab that reads “Status of My Absentee or Provisional Ballots.” The field will show the election date, what kind of ballot you voted on and its status.

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