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Maryland State Board Of Elections Seeks To Open 282 Voting Centers Statewide On Election Day

BALTIMORE (AP/WJZ) -- The clock is ticking to Election Day 2020, and in the middle of a pandemic, state election officials are trying to determine between in person voting, mail-in ballots or a combination of both.

Maryland's state elections board voted Friday to significantly reduce the number of places where voters can cast ballots on Election Day in November, a proposal aimed at accommodating a shortage of poll workers while avoiding voter confusion and crowded precincts during the coronavirus pandemic.

The State Board Of Elections would like to designate several days for early voting, then open up all high schools for in person voting on election day -- where that option is feasible. This proposal will be sent to Gov. Larry Hogan for approval.

The state's current election format calls for having roughly 80 early-voting centers and opening up to 1,800 precinct-based polling places, with voters required to cast ballots at their local precincts.

Vote centers would be larger forums than precincts, which could make it easier to maintain social distancing rules, according to local election officials.

Election officials have been under pressure from Gov. Hogan, who wants to mail out applications to people who want to vote by mail. He also wants elections officials to recruit election judges, and open early voting centers in addition to election day voting.

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The governor's suggestions have been criticized by some who believe he should be fully supporting vote by mail options instead of pushing for in person voting during a pandemic.

The State Board of Elections has also been criticized after problems in the June primary where ballots were sent out late, and some voters say they didn't get ballots at all.

There's also concern that people won't want to be election judges because of concerns of being in the public during a pandemic. Gov. Hogan has offered administrative hours to state workers who want to volunteer as election judges.

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