The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Dan Cox appeals Md. decision to allow early counting of mail-in ballots

Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick) talks to reporters in Annapolis on June 30. (Brian Witte/AP)

Maryland Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Cox is challenging a judge’s decision on Friday allowing election workers to canvass mail-in ballots early, adding uncertainty over when voters might have results for the general election in November.

Attorneys for Cox filed a notice in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Tuesday appealing the ruling, sought by the State Board of Elections after a chaotic primary season marked by delayed results. Although the filing does not detail Cox’s argument against permitting officials to count mail-in ballots beginning Saturday, he has previously said the situation didn’t warrant emergency action.

Election workers anticipate a deluge of mail-in ballots ahead of November’s gubernatorial contest, which pits Cox, a first-term state delegate and 2020 presidential election denier, against Wes Moore (D), a best-selling author who garnered high-profile celebrity and political endorsements. The legal battle centered on an outdated law that prohibits counting mail-in ballots until two days after the election, with the State Board of Elections voting unanimously to seek emergency relief for help meeting local, state and federal deadlines to certify results.

Lawyers for Cox opposed the board’s petition in court, claiming legal intervention was unconstitutional and unnecessary. But a judge disagreed; results of early counting will not be released before polls close on Election Day under the judge’s order.

Democrats around the state criticized the move by Cox, who was endorsed by former president Donald Trump and made election integrity part of his primary platform. Election integrity has become a rallying cry for GOP candidates around the country, demonstrating the lasting influence of unproven claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential race.

Cox’s campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the appeal, but he said in a news conference last week that he was fighting the decision to support the constitutional process and “to make sure we support the integrity of elections.” He would not say whether he would accept the outcome of the election if the judge ruled to allow early counting.

A spokesman for Moore, Cox’s opponent, criticized the appeal for “doubling down on this bogus lawsuit to delay the electoral process.”

“Cox has built a career on attacking elections and their outcomes,” Carter Elliott IV said in a statement. “This kind of behavior is an attack on democracy and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Governor’s office. We’ve said it before — Dan Cox just isn’t too into democracy.”