Neighborhood precincts used for decades are being replaced by larger voting centers, and a host of disinfecting and social distancing measures are in place for those who want to cast their ballots in person.
Here are answers to some commonly asked questions, including about signatures, postage and how to vote early or by mail.
When is Election Day, and what is on the ballot in Maryland?
The presidential contest has dwarfed attention paid to the rest of the Nov. 3 ballot, which includes all eight of the state’s congressional races, Baltimore mayor and city council races, and ballot initiatives on sports betting and the state budget process, as well as a handful of other local races and issues. Maryland’s state legislature and most municipal and county offices will not be on the ballot.
Is it too late to send in my mail-in ballot?
Practically speaking, yes.
Elections officials on Wednesday urged voters to use a drop box if they had not already put their ballots into the mail stream. Under law, ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrive by Nov. 13, but because of widespread delivery delays, elections officials said voters should avoid the mail if they want “to be confident their vote will be received and counted in a timely fashion.”
What if my mail-in ballot never came? Or if I made a mistake on it?
Ballots requested before the Oct. 20 deadline should have already been sent out. If you haven’t received it or if you accidentally ruined your ballot, you may either request a new ballot at your local Board of Elections office or vote in person during early voting or on Election Day.
If I asked for a mail-in ballot, can I still vote in person?
Yes. Elections officials will note that you have a mail-in ballot issued in your name and ask you to cast what’s known as a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are set aside and counted last after all the other mail-in votes are tallied. Elections officials make sure your mail-in ballot was not counted before they process your provisional ballot.
When will I know my vote is counted?
You can track your mail-in ballot at the Maryland Board of Elections website. Once returned, ballots undergo a three-step process: an oath check, a ballot check and then a scan to be counted. Elections officials first make sure the oath on the envelope is signed and then scan it into the system to mark it as “received”; then a team of canvassers opens the envelopes and checks to make sure the ballots have been marked in dark ink and have no identifying marks; finally the ballots are scanned into the voting machines and marked as “accepted.” There can be a lag of days or up to a week or more between when a ballot is “received” and “accepted.”
What if I requested a ballot by mail?
More than 40 percent of Maryland voters asked for mail-in ballots by the Oct. 20 deadline, and election data released Oct. 29 showed 67 percent of those 1.67 million ballots have been processed as returned. Voters who requested e-delivery of their blank ballots started receiving links to download them on Sept. 24. Additional ballots will be shipped and emailed on a rolling basis as requests for them are processed.
When and where can I drop off my ballot?
Completed ballots can be returned by mail or in person to local elections offices or deposited into one of 282 drop-off boxes distributed around the state, including one at each of the early-voting centers. You must return your ballot to a box within your home county. After Oct. 28, election officials recommend using a drop box instead of the U.S. Postal Service to ensure the ballot is counted in a timely fashion.
What if I haven’t registered to vote?
You can still register to vote in-person at early-voting centers starting Oct. 26 or at Election Day voting centers on Nov. 3. You will need to bring a document proving where you live. A driver’s license or utility bill will work.
Unsure whether you are registered or whether your information is up to date? You can look it up.
Do mailed ballots need postage?
Ballots carry prepaid postage and can be returned by mail, brought to an elections office or deposited in one of the 282 secure drop boxes that will be set up across the state. You need to submit it in the envelope provided with your ballot. E-delivered ballots require voters to provide their own envelope and affix postage. If you have not mailed your ballot by Oct. 28, elections officials encourage you to use a drop box instead.
When do I need to mail or drop off my ballot?
By no later than Election Day, Nov. 3. Ballots must either be in a drop box or postmarked as of that day, which means that if you mail the ballot on Nov. 3, you must do so before that day’s mail pickup. Elections officials are urging voters to submit their ballots as early as possible. Ballots that are postmarked by Nov. 3 must arrive to elections officials by noon on Nov. 13 to be counted. Due to Postal Service delivery delays, elections officials recommend using a drop box.
Does my signature have to match anything perfectly?
No. Your mail-in ballot requires a signature attesting that you cast it, but it will not be compared against anything on file to determine whether the signature is valid.
When will my mail-in ballot be counted?
Ballots are being counted as they arrive, but no results will be made public until after the polls close on Election Day.
It’s possible that not all ballots will be counted before Election Day. No results will be final until all the votes are counted.
How do I volunteer at a polling station?
Why is there so much concern about the U.S. Postal Service this year?
While the Postal Service has coordinated vote-by-mail programs with some Western states for years, an unprecedented number of voters are eligible to cast a ballot this way in November, in part because states want to limit in-person voting to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. At the same time, operational changes implemented over the past few months have slowed delivery by as much as a week in some places, fueling widespread fears that ballots could be delivered too late to count in November. The Postal Service over the summer warned all but four states that they have deadlines that could leave voters disenfranchised.
Congress held hearings. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has said he would suspend, but not necessarily reverse, the heavily criticized cost-cutting measures. Federal judges required him to reverse them. Yet delivery slowdowns have lingered throughout the fall.
What has President Trump been saying about mail-in voting, and how are local officials responding?
President Trump has predicted, without evidence, that mail-in balloting will be laden with fraud. Local officials note there have been very few examples of fraud connected to absentee ballots in previous elections. A June Washington Post analysis of data collected by three vote-by-mail states with help from the nonprofit Electronic Registration Information Center found that officials identified just 372 possible cases of double voting or voting on behalf of deceased people out of about 14.6 million votes cast by mail in the 2016 and 2018 general elections, or 0.0025 percent.