SALISBURY – With less than a month remaining until the June 2 primary election, officials in Wicomico County this week outlined efforts to ensure all eligible voters have a chance to cast their ballots.
On Tuesday, Wicomico County Board of Elections Director Anthony Gutierrez came before the Wicomico County Council to discuss voting procedures for the upcoming primary election.
On April 10, Gov. Larry Hogan issued a proclamation ratifying the Maryland State Board of Elections’ plan to postpone the 2020 Presidential Primary Election to June 2. Next month’s election will be primarily a “vote by mail” election, meaning eligible voters will be automatically mailed a ballot.
“The governor approved the state board of elections’ plan to postpone the Maryland primary until June 2 and also to move it to a mail-in ballot election,” Gutierrez said, “which means for Wicomico County voters that registered Democratic and Republican voters should be receiving a ballot package in the mail starting this week that will include a prepaid postage return envelope so that voters can send it back with postage already paid.”
Gutierrez said voters will also have the option of dropping off their ballots at designated ballot drop-off locations from May 21 through June 2.
“One will be installed on May 21 at the Civic Center,” he said. “The other one will be outside the board of elections office at 345 Snow Hill Road. Our office is closed to the public, but the drop-off box will be available to voters to drop that off if they prefer.”
Gutierrez noted that individuals unable to vote by mail may vote in person from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 2 at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.
“But the state board members were very adamant that their intent is to offer in-person assistance to such voters as, for example, a blind voter who may want to use a ballot marking device because it has an audio ballot feature that allows them to cast an independent ballot, or a voter who for some reason did not receive a ballot in the mail,” he said. “Remember, in Wicomico County that is only Democrat and Republican voters.”
To reduce the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus, Gutierrez said the state board of elections recommends that voters who can vote by mail do so.
“The intent is to keep the turnout on June 2 at the Civic Center as low as possible because safety is certainly our utmost concern for both our voters and our poll workers,” he said. “The message we want to get out to Wicomico voters, and all voters in Maryland, is please consider using the prepaid postage envelope or one of the two ballot boxes that we are going to be making available between May 21 and June 2.”
Gutierrez told the council Wicomico voters will see at least four contests on their ballots.
“One for president, one for Congressional District 1, and two contests relating to the presidential nomination conventions to be held somehow later this year,” he said. “Additionally, voters in District 2, part of the county council District 2, will have a fifth contest with a candidate that is running unopposed either on the Democratic or Republican ballot for the nomination in November.”
Gutierrez encouraged all voters to read the instructions carefully before submitting their ballots. He said ballots without a signature will not be counted.
“The instructions are very clear,” he said. “All ballots require a signature.”
Councilman Larry Dodd asked Gutierrez how the board of elections would prevent voter fraud.
“Current Maryland election law is that when a voter casts that ballot, part of that oath signature required is that you are signing under the penalty of perjury that you are not committing that type of fraud,” Gutierrez replied.