By Steve Pressman
If you are looking for a short, clear summary of steps to obtain and cast your mail-in ballot, go to the Montgomery County Democratic Party website. The most important point is to request a ballot NOW! Don’t wait for the state to mail you an application.
For more detailed information, see the State Board of Elections website. Another great resource is the user-friendly website of our friends at 4You2Vote. They have created a page that clearly explains the rules of mail-in (and hand-delivery) voting.
Every registered voter (except those who have not voted in the last two elections) will be mailed an application for a vote-by-mail ballot. However, you can, and should, apply for a mail-in ballot NOW either online or by filling out a paper form. The online form can be a bit confusing, as it will look like you are registering to vote for the first several steps before it gets to the part about requesting a mail-in ballot. In spite of that, it is the correct form.
You must complete the application for a mail-in ballot and deliver it to your local board of elections. Your application must be received (not just mailed) by Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, to get your ballot by mail or fax. If you send the application via email or fax, you have until 11:59pm on Oct. 20.
It will also be possible to download and print your ballot from the state’s website, but we do not recommend doing that. Your printed version of the ballot will not be scannable by the Board of Elections’ machines, and your ballot would then have to be reviewed by a Republican and a Democrat election judge. That could delay your ballot from being counted.
Once you receive your mail-in ballot, you must mail your voted ballot to your local board of elections office, or you can hand-deliver your voted ballot on election day. You cannot submit your voted ballot online or return it by email or fax. If you mail your ballot, the envelope must be postmarked on or before the presidential general election day–Nov. 3, 2020. If you hand-deliver your ballot, you can do so at your local board of elections office until 8pm on election day, or at an early voting center or an election-day polling place before the polls close. In addition, the State Board of Elections expects to deploy ballot drop-off boxes for the general election.
If you need to register to vote or update your current address, you must do it by Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Or you may exercise your right to “same day” register and vote during the early voting period and on election day. You can find further guidance on this process here.
UPDATE: In response to an email Steve Pressman sent to the Board of Elections:
Yes, you may hand-deliver your voted ballot to the Board of Elections office prior to Election Day.
Early voting will be held from Monday, Oct. 26 through Monday, Nov. 2. Early voting centers will be open from 8am to 8pm. Voted ballots may be delivered to early-voting sites during hours of operation. The Board of Elections office is open from 8:30am to 5pm Monday through Friday. Voted ballots may be delivered to our office during normal business hours or placed in one of our drop-boxes. Locations here.
- It has gotten easier to go online and request a mail-in ballot be sent to you in the mail, as the Board of Elections has just released a new Ballot Request tool.
- If you request a mail-in ballot, you should stick with that method. If you change your mind after requesting a mail-in ballot and show up to vote in person, you will be required to cast a provisional ballot. This means election officials will check to make sure you voted only once, and that is time-consuming for both you and elections officials.
- On Aug. 24, the Board of Elections should start mailing ballot request applications to registered voters who have not yet submitted a request for a mail-in ballot.
- Ballots will be mailed starting Sep. 24, according to the Washington Post.
- Nearly 35,000 ballots were rejected in Maryland’s first statewide vote-by-mail election in June. The top reasons for rejections were mailing too late and failing to sign the ballot envelope. The rejections amounted to 2.39% of votes cast. That is considered low by state elections authorities. Voting by mail involves higher risk of disqualifying errors, but also higher participation rates,than in-person voting.