Political reporter Emily Opilo previews the special election for Rep. Cummings' seat which is being held Tuesday, April 28, mostly by mail-in ballots.
On Tuesday, Maryland will try something it’s never done before: conducting an election almost entirely by mail.
Ballots for the special election, which decides who fills the remainder of the term of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, are due Tuesday and will be accepted by unconventional means, namely the U.S. Postal Service and in drop boxes.
In addition to picking a winner for the 7th District seat — Democrat Kweisi Mfume and Republican Kimberly Klacik are on the ballot — the election is a test of how well Maryland can pull off an election conducted via mail.
That’s important because in June, Maryland will repeat the process on a much bigger scale. Ballots will be mailed to more than 4 million voters statewide to allow them to participate in a primary that includes presidential and Baltimore mayoral candidates, while minimizing the spread of the virus.
For now, below is everything you need to know about Tuesday’s election.
Ballots have been mailed to the approximately 500,000 voters in the district, which includes parts of the city of Baltimore and the counties of Howard and Baltimore.
State officials are encouraging voters to return their completed ballots using the postage-paid envelopes included with the ballot. Stamps are not required to mail the ballots, although the instructions mistakenly mention that two stamps are needed.
Just make sure your ballot is postmarked by Tuesday and includes your signature to ensure it will be counted.
If you don’t feel comfortable mailing your ballot, you can use one of the drop boxes available in each jurisdiction. Starting Friday, drop boxes were placed outside the three local elections offices, and are available from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Election Day, drop boxes will also be available at three in-person voting centers. Ballots must be in the boxes by 8 p.m. Tuesday.
What if I don’t have a ballot?
The deadline to mail voters ballots has passed, but voters may still be able to get a ballot via email.
First, confirm you live in the district using the state’s voter lookup tool. Don’t be surprised if you’re not; the district’s boundaries are all over the place.
If you live in the district and your address is correct in state records, you can submit a request to absentee.SBE@maryland.gov or call 1-800-222-8683 for an online ballot. The ballot will be emailed within a day, and requests will be accepted through Tuesday.
Also, you’ll need to have access to a printer to print such a ballot. They cannot be returned online. Because an envelope is not included with an emailed ballot, you’ll also need to pay postage.
Baltimore City voters can go to Edmondson High School at 501 N. Athol Ave. in Southwest Baltimore. Baltimore County voters can go to Martin’s West at 6817 Dogwood Road in Windsor Mill. And Howard County voters can go to the Howard County Fairgrounds at 2210 Fairgrounds Road in West Friendship.
But the centers are just supposed to be for voters who didn’t get a ballot by mail, for those who couldn’t obtain one via email or for disabled people who can’t use a paper ballot independently (and therefore privately). If you already have a ballot, you are strongly encouraged to return it via mail or use one of the drop boxes.
State health officials have been advising election officials on how to practice social distancing while inside polling centers. They’ve been instructed to sanitize equipment and keep voters as far apart as possible.
Mfume, 71, is seeking to reclaim the House seat he left in 1996 to become president of the NAACP. The former Baltimore City Council member represented the 7th District for a decade and was chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
He calls himself “a progressive moderate,” saying he is “very, very progressive” on social issues, but “a little more moderate” on fiscal concerns.
Don’t expect them right away. While the number of total ballots will be small compared with a statewide election, the counting process is different.
As completed ballots have arrived by mail, elections workers have stored them under the date they were received, “quarantining” the papers for at least 24 hours, said Nikki Charlson, deputy administrator for state elections.
Elections officials began counting ballots last week and will continue counting ballots as the documents emerge from quarantine.
At 8 p.m. on Election Day, elections officials will release the results of the ballots they’ve counted so far.
The ballots cast on Election Day at voting centers won’t be counted until the next day, she said. The same will be true for ballots placed in drop boxes on Election Day.
Additional results will be released at least daily after that point. It could take multiple days to count all ballots, depending on how many are received.