The presidential primary election has been delayed in Maryland from April 28 until June 2 amid coronavirus concerns, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday.
Frederick County Election Director Stuart Harvey said he is awaiting guidance from the State Board of Elections on how to handle the election. Hogan announced that the board must draft a comprehensive plan by April 3, working with the Maryland Department of Health.
“There’s going to be a lot of conversation over the next few weeks,” Harvey said.
Along with the primary election delay, Hogan also announced the following changes, effective immediately:
- MARC train service is reduced by 50 percent.
- State and public health officials plan to close vehicle emission test centers statewide and use them as drive-through COVID-19 testing centers.
- The Maryland Transportation Authority is closing all customer service centers and using cashless tolling for its toll booths.
- The Preakness Stakes will be delayed until sometime in September.
- All noncommercial driver’s license tests are suspended.
- A request is being made to the federal government to postpone deadline for Real ID compliance; the current deadline is Oct. 1.
Regarding the emission testing stations as COVID-19 testing sites, Hogan said it is important those sites are rolled out efficiently and effectively.
The “back end” of the operation, including the testing equipment and overall testing capability, is what officials must figure out in the coming days and weeks, he added.
“A number of states have tried it and failed miserably,” he said, noting crowding and other problems in those jurisdictions.
Fran Phillips, the state’s deputy secretary of health, said the sites are an example of “social distancing,” a term public health officials have used to describe slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
The concept of social distancing and the White House’s recent recommendation of avoiding social gatherings of more than 10 people will also likely affect how primary election ballots are collected and distributed, along with other logistics, Harvey said.
“I have more than 10 election workers in a number of polling places,” Harvey said. “We have to see exactly what the state board has in terms of a plan.”
Those interested in mailing in a ballot can do so by requesting one at elections.maryland.gov/voting/absentee.html or calling 410-269-2840.
No matter what the State Board of Elections produces by April 3, Hogan said protecting Maryland residents’ right to vote is essential.
“Free and fair elections are the very foundation of American democracy,” he said at Tuesday’s news briefing.
Harvey said despite the news, it’s important to note that an election will still be held in early June. He added that it’s better to act sooner than later if you know how you’re going to vote.
“If they have any requests ... they should request an absentee ballot now and vote by mail,” Harvey said.