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Election Board to ask Hogan to approve plan with voting centers

Votes vote in 2016. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

The State Board of Elections is planning to ask Gov. Larry Hogan to approve a plan for the Nov. 3 election that would open voting centers in every county on place of traditional polling places. Election officials say the plan would allow them to handle the lack of election judges because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (The Daily Record file photo / Maximilian Franz)

State board of elections officials say they will ask Gov. Larry Hogan to approve a plan that would open voting centers in every county in the state in place of traditional polling places.

The latest plan comes 88 days before the Nov. 3 election and as those same elections officials attempt to deal with an expected massive decrease in the number of available election judges around the state during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The state already has a shortage of judges to work the polls and boards of elections are bracing for more. Most who work as elections judges are senior citizens and fall into age groups who are typically the most severely affected by the disease.

Under the proposal discussed Friday afternoon, jurisdictions that could not fully staff their typical number of polling places would be required to have a minimum number of voting centers. That minimum requirement would be equal to the number of early voting centers plus the 282 high schools statewide. Those high schools would act as voting centers where any resident could vote regardless of which precinct they reside.

The board would also use 127 ballot drop boxes.

Hogan must approve the request before the board can formally vote to implement it.

A letter to the governor is not expected to be delivered until next week.

Board members, hoping Hogan will quickly approve the plan, scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday with a second meeting set for Friday if needed.

If Hogan does not approve the plan, board members said they would likely have to fall back on a plan to allow local boards of elections around the state to consolidate polling places.

Hogan directed local election officials to open all polling locations and early-voting centers for the general election. In a letter this week, he demanded that elections officials explain why applications for mail-in ballots haven’t been sent yet.

The governor also expressed concerns about consolidating polling places saying it could lead to voter suppression.

In July, Hogan ordered the board to open all early voting centers and traditional polling places and mail 4 million registered voters applications for absentee ballots rather than ordering a mostly vote by mail election as was done for the June primary.

The governor cited a number of problems with returned ballots or those that had errors that delayed counting as a reason for not repeating the mostly by mail election.

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