With COVID-19 continuing to disrupt just about every aspect of life, including the political calendar, Maryland should commit now to moving its June 2 primary to a vote-by-mail election, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D) said on Monday.
“We think that can be done securely, safely and accurately by mail, as other states have done,” he told reporters.
Last week Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) decided to push forward with the April 28 special election in Maryland’s 7th congressional district, but he ordered the State Board of Elections to use mail-in ballots exclusively.
Hogan also ordered the primary elections scheduled for that day moved to early June.
While he expressed optimism that the nation will be functioning closer to normal by then, Hoyer urged Hogan to move to a mail-in primary now.
“The governor did the right thing in delaying the Maryland primary until June 2,” said Hoyer, the U.S. House majority leader. “But on the 28th of April he kept the general election for the congressional seat to be filled. And that election is going to done by mail. I think that’s a good thing for him to do. I would urge him to do it for the entire state on June 2.”
Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, said the governor isn’t ready to commit to making the June primary an all-mail affair. Ricci said the State Board of Elections is due to come back to the governor by April 3 with a plan for how to conduct the June 2 primaries.
“We’ll reserve judgment on next steps until we see their plan,” he said in an email.
Voters throughout Maryland will cast presidential primary ballots on June 2. In addition, voters in Baltimore City will decide mayoral, City Council president, comptroller and City Council primaries. And there are contests elsewhere, including for Congress and Cecil County executive.
Asked by a reporter whether he would support delaying the November elections or allowing people to vote electronically, Hoyer said no.
“I hope that will not be necessary, for a lot of reasons, frankly,” the high-ranking Democrat said with a chuckle.
Noting that Oregon and Washington state have shifted entirely to vote-by-mail elections, Hoyer said November balloting could also be done in that manner nationwide, if public health decisions made that necessary.
“I think it’s very important for the American people to be able to select, as a commander in chief, particularly at a time when we have great challenges in our country, the person of their choice,” he said. “So I would be opposed to delaying the Nov. 2 election.”
Hoyer said the U.S. House of Representatives is considering allowing its members to cast floor votes electronically — particularly those who have fallen ill and need to remain at home.
One lawmaker has been hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19, Hoyer said, and two other lawmakers — one House member and one senator — have tested positive.
Electronic voting is “under consideration,” he said, but “no decision has been made.”
The House Rules Committee will soon be submitting a report on the matter, Hoyer added.
“We’re going to do our job one way or the other as the American people expect.”