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Your guide to voting during the COVID-19 pandemic in DC and Maryland

While voting in person will still be allowed, officials in Maryland and the District want residents to be aware of what must be done to vote via mail-in-ballots.

WASHINGTON — Both Maryland and D.C. will be holding primaries in a week. And as all of us adapt to our new normals during the coronavirus pandemic, here is what you will need to know before attempting to make your vote count. 

While voting in person will still be allowed, officials in Maryland and the District want residents to be aware of what must be done to vote via mail-in-ballots.

More is on the ballots than just casting a presidential primary vote. Primary voting will also be for U.S. congressional seats, D.C. council seats, Maryland board of education seats, Maryland city mayors, Maryland city council members, Maryland judges and more. 

In Maryland, primary ballots have already been mailed out to registered voters.

Three-and-a-half million ballots have been mailed in an effort to limit in-person voting to protect against crowded polls and the spread of coronavirus.

But the mailing of about 60,000 ballots to residents of Montgomery County were delayed due to problems with a contractor responsible for printing and distributing ballots. The delayed ballots are due for delivery no later than Saturday.

Of note, on Maryland mail-in ballots is an "Oath of Absentee Voter," which you MUST SIGN on the back of the envelope, or your vote will not count. 

"You must sign this oath. If you do not sign it, your ballot will not count," state election officials said. 

Ballots must be postmarked in Maryland by June 2. 

Voters who have not received ballots can be reissued a ballot by mail if a request is made by Wednesday. Voters may also download a ballot electronically from the local board of elections websites. Downloaded ballots must be printed and mailed back. Counties will provide drop boxes for people who chose not to mail ballots.

It should also be noted that the Maryland mail-in ballots say "Presidential Primary April 28, 2020," which could be confusing to some voters. Maryland Board of Elections confirms that mail-in ballots for the June 2 presidential primary election are valid ballots, despite the incorrect date on them. If an eligible voter did not receive a ballot in the mail, they may submit a request to absentee.SBE@maryland.gov or call 1-800-222-8683.

For more information about this election, including a list of in-person voting locations, visit www.elections.maryland.gov or contact the State Board at 1-800-222-8683.

Only sharply limited in-person voting will be available on June 2 at a dramatically reduced numbers of polling places in Maryland's counties, according to Nikki Charlson, the deputy administrator of Maryland's State Board of Elections. Charlson said Maryland's voting by mail and absentee voting system is secure.

"Our process is secure and safe," Charlson said. "We're fortunate that we had a smaller election to fill the seat for Congressman Cummings, and we implemented vote by mail on a smaller scale. That taught us that our procedures in place for absentee voting, which we've had in Maryland for decades, can be scaled up to do vote by mail."

Tuesday, May 26, is the deadline for D.C. voters to request a mail-in primary ballot. Unlike Maryland, which is mailing ballots to all registered voters, D.C. voters have to request a mail-in ballot.

The ballots themselves must be postmarked by June 2, and be back to the D.C. Board of Elections no later than a week after the primary. They can also be dropped off at an early voting center.

There are two ways District voters can request absentee ballots online. They can either fill the form out at the Vote 4 DC website, or download and fill out a separate printable form from the DC Board of Elections website.

Voters should then return the form by email as a scanned attachment to DCabsentee@dcboe.org, fax the form to 202-347-2648, or mail it to the D.C. Board of Elections at 1015 Half Street, S.E., Suite 750, Washington, D.C. 20003.

Voters can also opt to fill the form out via the Vote 4 DC mobile app, which allows you to sign the form with your finger and send it in virtually without printing anything out. If they prefer mailing in a ballot (aka “snail mail”) they can request an application by phone at 202-741-5283. They can either mail the envelope, which is postage-paid, to the Board of Elections office or bring it to a vote center. Either way, voters must sign their ballot envelopes. 

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