Counting the votes for this year’s election will be different. Voters will need to exercise patience in awaiting the final results. Both politicians and voters need to understand it and that the delay is due to the changes made and are not per se evidence of fraud or incompetence.
The delayed primary election will occur primarily by mail. All active registered voters have been sent a ballot. A limited number of polling places will be open on June 2nd but the State is heavily encouraging Marylanders to cast their ballot by mail during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
As Donna Duncan at the State Administrative Board of Elections explained to me, counties have not only begun to receive ballots back from votes but also to count them. Each county has a live feed where you can watch the canvass room. Baltimore City has the hottest primaries in the state this year, and you can watch the count live or previous recordings if you find C-SPAN too fast paced for your taste.
After opening the ballot and making sure it complies with the legal requirements, including that the oath on the envelope has been signed, canvassers feed the ballots into machines. Many counties use the normal electronic machines that voters feed the same ballots into on election day. Some of the populous counties have machines that can read ballots much more quickly.
People in each county who have signed non-disclosure agreements have the results but may not legally reveal them until the appropriate time. The State Board of Elections plans to authorize the release of results from all ballots counted as of Sunday, May 31st when the polls close on June 2nd at 8pm, or very shortly thereafter. Recall that in the last general election results were delayed for several hours due to a court order that required keeping some polling places open beyond the normal scheduled closing time.
That same evening, counties should also report the votes cast at the polls. There are fewer polling places, so maybe it will go more quickly. On the other hand, anyone who is in line by 8pm can still vote, so any (hopefully socially distanced) lines will cause delay.
Normally, by the end of election night, we await the absentee vote count to finalize the results. Marylanders have been more prone to vote early instead of absentee, but this year will obviously be different, and the uncounted ballots weigh far more heavily. People tend to mail or to drop off their ballots close to the day, so a blizzard of ballots will still require counting. Any ballot postmarked on or before primary day and received by 10am on June 12th will be tallied.
Think of it as an extended and much larger absentee count. All of those envelopes will need to be opened, checked and counted. Each county will likely need to provide updates on the count as it proceeds. I would expect final counts to occur on June 12th at the very earliest and it could be later for jurisdictions depending on the number of ballots that need processing.
In short, patience is a required virtue this election season.