A ballot drop box in northwest Baltimore. Photo by Marcus Dieterle.

Maryland’s local elections officials will be allowed to begin counting mail-in ballots for the November general election starting Oct. 1, a judge ruled Friday.

At the beginning of September, the Maryland State Board of Elections filed a petition seeking authorization to start counting mail-in ballots early.

That was after Maryland’s vote counting was delayed during the July primary election because election officials were not allowed to start counting mail-in ballots until two days after the election.

The Maryland General Assembly passed a law during their last legislative session that would have allowed election officials to count mail-in ballots eight days before the start of early voting while withholding results until polls closed on Election Day. But Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed that legislation.

On Friday, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge James A. Bonifant ruled in favor of the state elections board, allowing ballots to be counted early.

The Maryland State Board of Elections in a statement said they are “pleased by the Court’s decision.”

“This ruling provides election officials with additional time to canvass and tabulate these ballots to ensure that all critical election-related deadlines established by law are met,” the state elections board said. “It also enables elections officials to return to a well-established process of canvassing mail-in ballots prior to Election Day, which was allowed in the 2020 General Election.”

Hogan said he “welcome[s]” the judge’s ruling, while he blamed partisanship for the issue having to be resolved in court.

“It worked well in that election [in 2020], but partisan legislators dropped the ball on adopting our successful approach, making this step necessary,” he said. “We thank the court for acting swiftly, and encourage Marylanders to take part in the electoral process, make sure their registration is up to date, and consider volunteering to serve as an election judge.”

Starting Friday, ballots were mailed to military personnel and overseas voters who requested them. Ballots will be mailed to other voters who requested them starting next week, the state elections board said.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...

2 replies on “Maryland can start counting mail-in ballots Oct. 1, judge rules”

    1. Hi, April. Local elections officials will be allowed to count mail-in ballots early, but results will still not be made public until after the polls have closed on Election Day.

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