By Associated Press - Tuesday, September 27, 2022

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Attorneys for Maryland’s Republican gubernatorial nominee announced Tuesday that they’re challenging an order allowing the counting of mail-in ballots before Election Day.

C. Edward Hartman, an attorney for Dan Cox, said a notice of appeal has been filed and they will also seek a stay of a judge’s order issued last week.

On Friday, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge James Bonifant granted the Maryland State Board of Elections’ petition allowing local elections officials to begin canvassing mail-in ballots on Oct. 1, instead of waiting until after Nov. 8. With so many mail-in ballots, Bonifant wrote, local boards of election couldn’t verify the vote count within 10 days of the general election as required.

Cox, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is challenging Democrat Wes Moore to replace Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is term-limited.

Counting mail-in ballots before Election Day was allowed in 2020 during a state of emergency, when voting by mail increased due to the pandemic. But because the state of emergency expired, the state returned to a law that doesn’t allow mail-in ballots to be counted until after Election Day.

Last month, the state elections board voted to file an emergency petition in hopes of speeding up the vote count for mail-in ballots, which have become much more popular.

Without the change, board members have said that local, statewide, and even federal contests could be left without certified results until late December or early January. The board also noted that Maryland is the only state in the union that forbids any kind of processing of mail-in ballots until after Election Day. That caused delays in determining winners in the state’s July primary.

The General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, passed legislation this year to allow the earlier mail-in ballot count. But Hogan vetoed the bill, saying he opposed other measures in the legislation while he supported the earlier vote count. Hogan said he welcomed the judge’s decision Friday.

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