Nearly half of Maryland voters who plan to participate in the November election say they will vote by mail, a poll released Thursday shows.
The Goucher College Poll reports 48% of likely voters surveyed expected to use a mail-in ballot and either mail it in or take it to a ballot drop box. Fifty-one percent planned to vote in person, either on Election Day or at early voting centers.
Maryland is offering 300 consolidated voting centers across the state for the Nov. 3 election due to the coronavirus pandemic. Early voting will be offered at about 80 of those centers, starting Oct. 26.
State election officials have encouraged voters to participate by mail-in ballots to reduce crowds at polling places. They’ve said for months that they expect about half of participating voters to make use of mail-in ballots, a figure reflected by the poll.
The poll surveyed 776 likely voters between Sept. 30 and Oct. 4, using cellphone and landline numbers. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
It also showed Democrats favored voting by mail, while more Republicans planned to vote in person. Of the likely Democratic voters surveyed, 59% said they would vote by mail, while 72% of likely Republican voters expected to vote in person.
That party divide could shape the results available by election night. Returns released shortly after polls close will include tallies from votes cast in person and any mail-in ballots counted before Election Day. With that tabulation including the votes from early voting and Election Day, the initial results could overrepresent the state’s Republican voters.
Counting of mail-in ballots, which are more likely to be cast by Democrats, will continue until at least Nov. 13. It could take even longer, depending on when voters returned ballots and how quickly the counting goes. A ballot must be postmarked by Election Day or in a drop box by the time polls close.
Maryland is one of the first states in the nation to begin counting ballots preelection, thanks to an emergency measure passed by the State Board of Elections that allowed counting to begin Oct. 1. State officials were concerned about completing the count in time to submit totals to the Electoral College, which is due to convene Dec. 14 to cast presidential ballots. Electoral College ballots must be received by the president of the U.S. Senate by Dec. 23.
Just over 149,000 completed ballots had been returned as of Thursday, almost 20% of which were from Anne Arundel County voters. Baltimore County and Prince George’s County each had more than 20,000 ballots returned thus far.
The Nov. 3 election includes the high-profile contest for president, as well as congressional seats and the race for mayor of Baltimore.