KEY POINTS

  • Do election judges have a right to health safety?
  • Disabled, displaced voters rights need consideration.
  • Is an out of court solution possible?

Taking place in the wake of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, Maryland judges could be asked to determine where and how the state's scheduled June 2 primary will take place. Gov. Larry Hogan has requested a write-in ballot be sent to eligible voters. Activists claim that could infringe upon some would-be voters' rights.

Members of the Maryland Board of Elections need to balance the responsibility of offering in-person voting centers and protecting election staff and volunteers from COVID-19.

A write-in ballot "is excluding [people with disabilities, those without housing and people temporarily displaced]of the population from being able to independently and privately vote,” Andrea Trento, a lawyer from the attorney general’s office who serves as counsel to the state Board of Elections, said in a letter last week.

“These people have the right to vote, and many of them cannot vote by mail."

States that have mail-in elections also offer in-person centers. This satisfies requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Help America Vote Act to allow voters who cannot vote by traditional means to vote independently and privately, Trento said.

According to the Baltimore Sun, board members were receptive to Trento’s argument, and the group contemplated opening a few voting centers on a limited — even an appointment-only — basis. But Webster Ye, the director of the office of governmental affairs for the Maryland Department of Health, told the board any in-person voting scenario presented a “very high possibility” that staff and volunteers would be infected.

Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, Common Cause Maryland and the National Federation of the Blind for Maryland spoke against the plan as is at a hearing last week.

The board will meet Thursday to finalize its proposal to send to Hogan.

Picnic tables block the closed doors of Abbey burger Bistro in Baltimore, after Maryland Governor Larry Hogan banned on-premise drinking and dining at restaurants Picnic tables block the closed doors of Abbey burger Bistro in Baltimore, after Maryland Governor Larry Hogan banned on-premise drinking and dining at restaurants Photo: AFP / JIM WATSON