MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — With early voting starting in Maryland on Monday, election officials are working hard to make it a smooth process.
"Your vote is just as important as mine, and we're here to serve," Dr. Gilberto Zelaya, spokesperson for the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said.
The Maryland State Board of Elections says early voting begins at 7 a.m. Monday and lasts for the next eight consecutive days, ending 8 p.m. on Nov. 2 -- the day before Election Day.
According to the State BOE, voters can cast their ballots at any early voting site within their county.
To help voters decide where to go, Montgomery County developed a "MOCO Voters App," which shows the closest center by zip code, directions, wait time for the lines, and sample ballots.
‘We want to spread out, mitigate lines, so as opposed to one location having an hour to an hour and a half wait, if individuals use the text and app, voters can make a better decision to go to a different location," Zelaya said.
In addition to the app, Zelaya said residents can text EV and their zip code to 77788. He said the response will provide the four closest early voting centers, their addresses, directions and wait times. On Election Day, voters can text VC and their zip code and receive the same information.
The state requires voters to wear a mask and stand at least six feet apart while waiting in line.
For those who requested a mail-in ballot, the State Board of Elections said they have to either mail that ballot back by 5 p.m. on Nov. 3 or drop it in a ballot box.
If a voter has a mail-in ballot and decides to vote in person, they will be forced to use a provisional ballot, because the Election Board has to verify they did not use the mail-in one, thus voting twice, so there will be some delay.
Anyone who missed the voter registration deadline can still register at a voting center the same day, according to the BOE.
The board's rules say those registering are required to provide proof of residence by bringing one of the following:
- Driver's license
- ID or change of address card
- Bank statement
- Utility bill
- Other government document that includes a name and new address
Since ballots are being collected via mail, ballot boxes, early voting centers, and day-of sites, Zelaya said to prepare for counting to take longer than usual.
“Word of the month: patience!" he said. "So please be patient with us. We will do our best.”
Election officials recommend voting between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to avoid long lines.
Early voting in DC begins Tuesday, Oct. 27. and continues in Virginia through Saturday, Oct. 31.
For more information on the election, text ELECTIONS to 202-895-5599.