The pandemic, which has forced five states to move primaries, is fueling a push for more voting by mail across the country.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that he was postponing the state’s primaries, originally scheduled for late April, to June 2 as the country grapples with the spread of the coronavirus.
Maryland is now the fifth state to move its primaries, joining Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio, which saw its primary originally scheduled for today pushed until June after an eleventh-hour legal battle.
“It would endanger public health to allow thousands of people to assemble … and it would put Marylanders at risk,” Hogan said Tuesday at a press conference. “I am directing the state board of elections to develop a comprehensive plan by April 3 to conduct the primary election in a way that protects public health and preserves the integrity of the Democratic process in our state.”
But Maryland will still hold one election on April 28, foreshadowing a potentially broad move toward mail voting that could pave the way for elections across the country to continue during the coronavirus crisis. Hogan said he believed the special election to fill the seat of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, in Maryland’s Baltimore-based 7th Congressional District, should forward on as a mail-in only election, the first federal election to be shifted to mail voting in response to coronavirus.
“It is imperative that the people of the 7th Congressional District have a voice in the House of Representatives,” Hogan said.
“The State board of elections contacted us last Wednesday and said they were concerned about being able to conduct the election,” Hogan said at his press conference. “They could not possibly do the mail-in for the whole state. They said they were incapable of getting it done in time … but on a small basis in one congressional district for that one vacancy, we are going to ask the board of elections to conduct that election on time.
“We are going to encourage people to vote absentee as much as possible, and those who aren’t doing the normal absentee ballot will be able to do whatever additional steps they decide to take for mail-in ballots,” Hogan continued.
Hogan’s decision comes amid a national push from lawmakers, state officials and election law experts to allow anyone in the U.S. to cast their vote by mail in light of the public health crisis.