Senator: Some Voters Who Applied Online for Mail-in Ballot Are Getting Mailed Applications, Too

    Some Marylanders who applied for mail-in ballots online are still receiving applications in the mail, leading some lawmakers and voting rights advocates to worry about voter confusion in an already unprecedented election.

    State Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery) said she and her staff went through the State Board of Elections’ multi-step online ballot application process on July 29. And although voters who fill out the online request aren’t supposed to receive an application in the mail, Kagan and her staff members all got one on Thursday.

    Kagan said she and her staff aren’t alone: She took to Facebook to ask if anyone else had applied online but still received a mailed application, and garnered dozens of responses from bewildered voters. Others said they’d applied online and didn’t receive an application in the mail.

    Thousands of Marylanders have filled out the online request form so far, and Kagan worries that the extra mailed applications will confuse voters and cause extra work for election workers. She said voters who receive the mail-in applications might return them as a way to safeguard their ballots, forcing election staff to double check their application status.

    “It’s just an extra step, and an extra burden, and extra money that’s spent,” Kagan said.

    Deputy Election Administrator Nikki Charlson said voters can check their application status via the state’s online voter lookup system. If voters applied online, they might not need to resend the mail-in form, Charlson said.

    Charlson said election officials pulled online application data on Aug. 6, and some ballot applications received prior to that date might not have been processed by election workers at that time.

    “If you know you’ve submitted an online request and you have a confirmation number, then just check back and give it a few more days,” Charlson said. “There’s a lot of interest in voting by mail, and so a lot of people are submitting requests and [local boards of elections] are processing them as quickly as they can.”

    Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) ordered that every registered voter in the state receive a mail-in ballot application in the wake of errors in the state’s June 2 primary. During that election, which saw high turnout and was Maryland’s first largely vote-by-mail election, registered voters automatically received their ballots in the mail.

    Election officials say Hogan’s plan will cost the state extra money, and Election Administrator Linda H. Lamone in July asked state officials for an additional $20 million to conduct the November election. That includes an extra $5.6 million for ballot requests alone, and $1.8 million in postage.

    The $1.8 million in postage reflects only the state’s half, with local boards expected to foot the other half of the bill. Elections board members recently asked state officials to pay the entire cost.

    Kagan worried that election officials were wasting money by mailing applications to people who already submitted them online.

    “I’m really disappointed,” Kagan said. “This was already a cumbersome and expensive process.”

    The deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot is Oct. 20.

    [email protected]

    Bennett Leckrone
    Leckrone is a December 2019 graduate of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He has interned at The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Columbus Dispatch, PennLive.com, The Dayton Daily News and The Troy Daily News. Leckrone is a Report for America corps member.