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Maryland: How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts in the 2020 Election

What you need to know, including key deadlines, registration details, and how to vote by mail.

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There is no disputing the fact that the 2020 General Election is of the utmost importance when it comes to the future of our country. Though how you cast that ballot and make sure your vote counts should be the least of your worries. With the COVID-19 pandemic adding anxiety to in-person voting, earning that “I Voted” sticker might seem a little more difficult this year.

But the truth is there are tons of ways to vote (safely!) in Maryland. Though the state generally leans blue, its regions vary vastly when it comes to politics and it’s crucial to make your voice heard -- no matter which ticket you choose. So here's a quick rundown of how to register, sign up for early voting, track a mail-in ballot, and cast your ballot safety in person.

What’s the deadline to register to vote in Maryland?

The deadline to register to vote is October 13, and that applies both for postmark date by mail and in-person date. By the way, the deadline for an absentee ballot request is October 20.

How to register to vote in Maryland

You can register online at the Maryland’s Online Voter Registration System, or in-person at your local board of elections, state board of elections, local Department of Health office, or MVA offices, among other locations.

In Maryland, you can also register to vote on Election Day by going to a voting center in the county where you live and bring an MVA-issued license, ID card, paycheck, bank statement, or any document that proves where you live.

Can I vote early? When does early voting start in Maryland?

Yes! Early voting will be held for eight days and take place fro, October 26 through November 2. You can vote at any early voting center in the county you live in.

Can I vote by mail?

Yes! Maryland voters who have requested a mail-in ballot can expect to receive their ballot by the end of September. You can also choose to receive your ballot by email.

How do I vote by mail?

Follow the instructions with your ballot and return it in the post-paid return envelope that comes with it. When filling out your ballot, remember to use black ink, sign the return envelope (but not the ballot), seal your return envelope, and send your ballot. Be very careful with your signature as that could easily rule your ballot out. 
 
Maryland is urging all voters to return ballots as soon as possible (due to delays in the US Postal Service). Your ballot must be in the mail and postmarked by Election Day and received no later than 10am on November 13, but you should really get you ballot in the mail as soon as possible if you're going that route. Or you can drop off your voted ballot in a drop box location by 8pm on November 3.

Is there a way to track my mail-in ballot? How can I make sure it's counted?

Yes, though don’t expect it to be a perfect system. The website is updated daily, but if you submitted information online or through the MVA, it may take up to three weeks to appear on the website.

Be sure to carefully read the ballot instructions and meet the aforementioned deadlines. It's also always a good idea to avoid tearing or otherwise damaging your voter materials.

How can I stay safe while voting in person?

The Maryland State Board of Elections is communicating regularly with federal and state health agencies to monitor developments related to COVID-19. Officials said they're committed to providing the safest environment possible for Maryland voters and election workers, but it’s best to follow these CDC protocols:

  • Wear a mask. 
  • Keep a distance of at least six feet from others at all times.
  • Wash your hands both before and after leaving your polling location.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol frequently throughout your time inside the polling place, especially after you touch things like door hands, voting machines, and other surfaces that lots of other people touch.
  • If you cough or sneeze, cover them with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Dispose of the tissues in a lined garbage can, then use that 60% alcohol hand sanitizer again. 
  • Don't try to disinfect the voting machine or equipment yourself because you may end up damaging them with cleaners and disinfectant products. This is where hand sanitizer comes in again. Use it right after you touch the voting equipment, and if you use it before you touch the equipment, make sure your hands have dried first. 
  • Try to vote when your polling place isn't as busy. This might involve driving by and checking to see how long the line is.
  • Verify that you're registered to vote before you leave home and make sure you bring any documents you'll need to avoid complications that could result in spending more time inside the polling place.
  • Bring your own black ink pen for marking your ballot, or your own stylus (just check with a polling place worker before you use it). 
  • If possible, fill out a sample ballot at home that you can use to speed up casting your ballot at the polling location.

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Jess Mayhugh is a Cities Editor for Thrillist. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.