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Election 2022

With court cases pending, board delays approval of fall ballots by two days

The Maryland Board of Elections held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to enact a delay in approval of the ballots voters will see in November. Screenshot.

The Maryland State Board of Elections voted to delay by two days approval of the ballots that voters will see on Election Day.

The reason? Two simmering ballot-access cases that are scheduled to be resolved on Wednesday.

By statute, the board was supposed to approve November ballots 64 days before the election, which was Tuesday. But at an emergency meeting the panel voted unanimously to delay approval until Thursday, to give the courts time to resolve the two lawsuits.

One of the cases involves the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition, which hoped to put before voters a referendum that could lead to the creation of a Baltimore Regional Transportation Authority. The Baltimore City Board of Elections ruled that the organization’s petition drive failed to generate enough valid signatures.

The second case involves Paula Bienenfeld, a transit and education advocate who hoped to run for a seat on the Montgomery County Council as an independent.

The elections board also voted to slide by two days the mandated period for judicial review of the November ballots. Instead of running until Thursday, that process will conclude on Saturday. That review offers candidates for office and the public the opportunity to identify errors and to review the content and formatting of the ballot.

Also on Tuesday, local elections boards submitted dozens of requests for polling place changes and the state board uniformly approved those as well. Most of the changes were necessitated by issues with the venues originally chosen for use on Nov. 8.

One board member, Severn Miller, said such changes — while necessary — often sow confusion in the minds of the public, and he urged local elections officials to mount “a PR effort to make sure that information gets out on what new polling places are.”

“That’s the only thing anybody’s ever said to me, so far, about the state board, is ‘Why do they keep moving my polling place?’,” said Miller. “I just want to make sure we’re publicizing it in a way that encourages people to double-check before they go somewhere.”

Board Chair Bill Voelp said the panel is “up against the gun” in preparing for the general election, during which voters will decide races for governor, comptroller, attorney general, U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. All 188 seats in the General Assembly are on the ballot as are a slew of local contests. Many voters will see referendum questions as well.

On Friday the panel filed a petition in Montgomery County Circuit Court to allow local elections personnel to speed up the processing of mail-in ballots. In July, officials were not allowed to begin the time-consuming process of removing primary ballots from envelopes and unfolding them until two days after the Election Day, because Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed a measure that would have allowed them to do so.

State Board of Elections files petition asking courts to speed up November mail ballot counts

It’s expected that more than one million Marylanders will vote by mail this fall, and without the ability to begin the canvass early, officials have argued, results will be delayed.

Hogan’s spokesman, Michael Ricci, said on Tuesday that he “strongly supports having the court allow early canvassing, similar to what he instituted for the 2020 election.”