- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has approved of leaving a few local polling sites available but mainly replacing the majority with “voting centers” for the Nov. 3 election.

The Maryland State Board of Elections has reported the coronavirus health emergency has impacted the availability of election judges and facilities, according to the proclamation signed on Monday.

On Friday, the board had voted unanimously on a plan that includes converting the state’s 282 high schools into voting centers, which would allow voters to use any center in their county to cast ballots. The sites at the high schools would be in addition to the state’s 80 early voting centers, which would be opened from Oct. 29 through Election Day.

David Garreis, president of the Maryland Association of Elections Officials, said at a board meeting Friday that without Mr. Hogan’s proclamation, local elections offices would have only been able to consolidate voting precincts, thus preventing voters from picking the least crowded locations, according to WTOP.

The state is grappling with more than 14,000 vacancies for volunteer election judges in 23 counties and the city of Baltimore, WTOP reported. The use of voting centers was proposed as a way to manage in-person voting with fewer volunteers.

Citizens interested in serving as election judges can apply at elections.maryland.gov. Election judges earn a stipend of up to $300 for their work. Mr. Hogan is allowing state employees to take 16 hours of administrative leave to serve as election workers.

The elections board says it is working on a public health plan that includes social distancing and personal protective equipment to protect election workers and voters at in-person voting locations.

The board also plans to make 127 ballot drop boxes available statewide and is encouraging Maryland residents to vote by mail for this year’s election.

An application for a vote-by-mail ballot will be sent to all Maryland voters at the end of August or residents can request a vote by mail ballot online. The deadline to request a vote by mail ballot is Oct. 20.

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