ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s elections board announced Wednesday it will triple the number of locations in Baltimore for voters to drop off ballots and will consider adding more in-person voting centers for the state's June 2 primary.
Those steps come after officials sharply criticized the board and voiced concern about ballots not arriving in the mail.
Legislative leaders noted in a letter to the board that more than 40,000 ballots where not delivered to voters in last month's special congressional election. Members of the state's Board of Public Works also criticized the process during their Wednesday meeting.
“The board was warned of the challenges associated with mailing. Unfortunately, it seems like they didn’t heed that warning,” said Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, a Republican. “It’s very disappointing ... to the point of being outrageous.”
Treasurer Nancy Kopp, a Democrat who is one of three board members, said the process “has just got to change” as the state moves to largely mail-in elections because of the pandemic.
“People have to have faith in the electoral system or we’re in very dangerous territory,” Kopp said. “I don’t know what the board — it’s not just the administrator — the board can do to assure us that things will run. We’ll see, the first week in June, what happens, but that will only be a hint to what could happen in November.”
The board said it will increase the number of places for people to drop off ballots from five to 15 in a primary in which voters are being urged to vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic. The board has scheduled a meeting Wednesday afternoon to consider adding more in-person voting centers.
“We are extremely disappointed that our ballot mailing vendor failed to deliver ballots on schedule and failed to notify us about their delay,” said Maryland Administrator of Elections Linda Lamone.
Despite the delay, Lamone said, ballots are being delivered daily to eligible voter addresses on file.
“We are confident eligible voters will receive their ballots in time to cast their votes in the June 2 primary," Lamone said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones expressed concern in a letter to the board due to late delivery of mail-in ballots to Baltimore and Montgomery County.
“Maryland cannot afford a repeat of last month’s special election on a statewide scale where over forty-thousand ballots were not delivered to voters," Ferguson and Jones wrote.
They also noted that a batch of mail-in ballots that were delivered late to voters in last month's 7th Congressional District special election, despite the fact that the ballots were requested appropriately on time. Ferguson and Jones cited a hearing last week, in which a board staff member said the board “forgot”to deliver updated ballot request lists to the printer.
“This information is incredibly disheartening and damages the public confidence in the State Board’s ability to conduct a fair and secure election," wrote Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, and Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat. “The State Board cannot afford to let this happen again. No Marylander should lose their right to vote due to administrative negligence."
Nearly 20,367 ballots, nearly one in 10, went undelivered to Baltimore voters during last month's special election due to address changes and other missing information, the lawmakers wrote. More than 8,000 ballots were not delivered in Baltimore and Howard counties.
In their letter, Ferguson and Jones asked the board to increase a current cap on in-person voting locations from a maximum of four to six sites per jurisdiction.