Ballots for the November election began arriving Thursday in voters' email inboxes, and another 800,000 printed ballots are expected to enter the mail stream beginning Saturday.
The timing of the deliveries, announced during a Maryland State Board of Elections meeting Thursday, means Maryland is on schedule to meet demand for mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 election.
State officials are encouraging voters to participate by mail as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Maryland. Residents also have the option of Election Day voting at more than 300 centers across Maryland and early voting, starting Oct. 26, at more than 80 locations.
Maryland has received just over 1 million requests for mail-in ballots thus far. There are about 4 million registered voters in the state. Ultimately, state election officials expect half the voters who participate in the election to opt for a mail-in ballot. Requests must be received by local election boards by Oct. 20.
Just over 111,000 of those requests asked for ballots delivered electronically (voters can look for a @marylandelections.us in the “From:” field). Those voters will have to print their ballots before returning them via the Postal Service or placing them in drop boxes.
Installation of more than 280 drop boxes is also on schedule, state election officials reported Thursday. Drop boxes will begin to be placed throughout the state Monday. By Wednesday, officials expect to have them open at all early voting locations. More boxes will be installed in October as they arrive from the manufacturer.
This week, Maryland election officials opened a data processing center to assist local elections boards with receiving and processing requests for mail-in ballots. Local boards typically process such applications, but they’ve been inundated with an unprecedented number of requests. Before this year, the most absentee ballots Maryland sent out was 233,000 in 2008.
The processing center, at the Motor Vehicle Administration building in Glen Burnie, has a staff of 25 and processed 5,000 ballots Wednesday, its first full day of operation, state officials reported.
Maryland’s mail-in ballots are being printed in Minnesota by Taylor Corp. Unlike the state’s June primary, when a different printer mailed the ballots from Minnesota, the general election ballots are being privately shipped to Maryland and then placed locally in the mail stream. Officials hope the change hastens their arrival.
During the lead-up to the primary, ballots for voters in Baltimore City and Montgomery County were delayed by a week, leaving some voters less than two weeks to fill them out. State election officials blamed the delay on the former ballot printing vendor, SeaChange. SeaChange is not printing any ballots for the November election.