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Maryland falls short of holding successful primary election during COVID-19

Election officials must account for and learn from mistakes, immediately prepare for November
for Immediate Release

BALTIMORE -- Maryland held its primary election Tuesday. The primary was originally scheduled for April 28, but because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Gov. Larry Hogan delayed it and attempted to send absentee ballots to all active voters.

Emily Scarr, director of Maryland PIRG, issued the following statement in response:

“Maryland had the opportunity to protect both its people’s health and the constitutional right to vote — and we fell short.

“Ballots are still arriving and being counted. Most voters were able to successfully vote absentee, but not all. Marylanders should not have to wait for hours in line to vote -- especially during a pandemic, but not ever. Our leaders had the foresight to delay this election and mail ballots to active voters, but they weren’t prepared for the problems that arose, especially in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. 

“Adding limited in-person voting options, as activists and advocates called for, helped enable tens of thousands of voters to participate on Election Day: people whose ballots didn’t come, people who needed to register to vote or help voting, and people who didn’t yet trust the new system. But there were still long lines, which likely deterred hundreds of voters.

“We can’t let this happen again, in Maryland or in any of the United States. Our state leaders should immediately begin to prepare for the general election in November, learning from the problems and mistakes of this primary election. 

“Specifically, we need more aggressive outreach to encourage voters to update their addresses; we need to mail ballots earlier and have robust ballot tracking so voters can resolve problems; we need backup plans to address long lines; we need more in person voting options; and, we need a full and transparent evaluation and public hearings on the printing and mailing errors in the June primary. Ultimately, our elections staff need more planning and resources so we can address unforeseen problems.”

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The Maryland Public Interest Research Group (Maryland PIRG) is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in democratic society.

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