Yesterday we discussed the “mostly” mail-in voting going on today in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District where residents will select the replacement for Elijah Cummings. The number of problems that voters encountered in trying to navigate this new procedure were daunting, but the Board of Elections made further adjustments at the last minute to give everyone the best chance possible to vote. We won’t know the official results of the election for weeks, but by tomorrow we should have a fairly good idea as to how people felt about the process.
The Baltimore Sun provides details of some of the final logistics that were put in place to deal with the task at hand. Not to put too fine of a point on this, but let’s just say… we have questions.
Ballots have been mailed to the approximately 500,000 voters in the district, which includes parts of the city of Baltimore and the counties of Howard and Baltimore.
State officials are encouraging voters to return their completed ballots using the postage-paid envelopes included with the ballot. Stamps are not required to mail the ballots, although the instructions mistakenly mention that two stamps are needed.
Just make sure your ballot is postmarked by Tuesday and includes your signature to ensure it will be counted.
If you don’t feel comfortable mailing your ballot, you can use one of the drop boxes available in each jurisdiction.
All of that sounds very optimistic and cheerful, but as we already learned, there have been more than a few problems. The details released last night highlight even more issues to be addressed.
First of all, as noted yesterday, they mailed out a massive number of ballots, but far too many people didn’t receive theirs. The registration rolls were apparently not complete enough or not up to date enough to get them to all the right homes. Some households saw one person getting a ballot, but other family members not getting theirs.
To add another option, they allowed voters to request “virtual ballots” to be emailed to them. In addition to the problems people ran into just trying to download and print the pdf file, now a new issue has arisen. If you had a ballot mailed to you, it came with an envelope that required no postage to send in. That’s great, except for the fact that the instructions they included said that “two stamps” were required to mail it in.
But wait… there’s more. If you managed to download the pdf and print out your ballot, you have to use postage to mail it in using your own envelope. Since you have to pay for the postage, Maryland has essentially introduced a poll tax and that’s unconstitutional.
Then there are the drop-off ballot boxes. If you wish to go down to one of the few in-person voting locations but don’t want to go mix with the crowds, you can drop your ballot off in the clearly marked box. That’s a nice option. Unfortunately, there are only a few of them and they are not located at the usual polling place where most voters are used to going. If you weren’t hunting down the information carefully, you likely have no idea where the nearest ballot box drop-off location is.
All of this is adding up to what appears to be a gigantic mess. And this is only a special election in one district. In June, only a handful of weeks away, they’re going to try the same thing again for the entire state. Buckle up tight, Maryland voters. It sounds like you’re in for a wild and woolly ride.