Many voters confused about mail-in ballot status, Montgomery official says

Many voters confused about ballot status, county election official says

Voters urged not to use provisional ballot if mail-in ballot already turned in

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Pictured is a mail-in ballot drop off box used during the primary election.

File photo

Montgomery County Board of Elections officials are processing and scanning hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots that have arrived before Election Day.

But some voters have been confused about the status of their ballots. The election office has been inundated with thousands of calls from residents who want to know why their ballot hasn’t been accepted.

This year, the Maryland State Board of Elections sent a mail-in ballot application to every registered voter. Applications had to be returned in order for residents to receive an absentee ballot.

Voters can check on the status of their mail-in ballot or application through the state’s voter lookup tool.

There are four mail-in statuses:
● Processed: A mail-in ballot application has been processed and received by the county’s election office
● Sent: A mail-in ballot has been sent to a voter
● Received: A mail-in ballot has been received by the county’s election office and has been scanned on the return envelope
● Accepted: A mail-in ballot has been counted by the county’s election office

Gilberto Zelaya, a spokesman for the county’s Board of Elections, said Wednesday during a media briefing that once a mail-in ballot has been scanned and been confirmed to have a signature on the return envelope, the status will change to “received.”

“‘Received’ means it’s in our possession. It’s secure. It’s safe,” he said. “We are in the process of flipping ‘received’ to ‘accepted.’”

So far, county residents have been sent more than 377,000 mail-in ballots.

The county has received back more than 252,000 mail-in ballots. More than 160,000 mail-in ballots have been canvassed and reviewed.

Of the roughly 160,000 ballots, more than 80,000 have been counted.

Only five mail-in ballots have been rejected, Zelaya said, but he did not explain why. “The reject percentage in Montgomery County is 0.00197%,” he said.

Seventy-six mail-in ballots were received without a signature. The board has contacted those voters to come into the election office to sign their ballots.

“We’re scanning as much as possible and we’re doing our best and we’re doing our due diligence. … On Nov. 3, once all [polls] close in the state of Maryland, we will release the early voting results,” Zelaya said, adding that Election Day results will be released as well.

In addition, any results for mail-in ballots that have been counted as of Election Day will be released.

Montgomery County voters will choose school board members, circuit court judges and members of Congress. They also will decide on four county ballot questions, as they also vote for president and on two state ballot questions.

Information about the local candidates and ballot questions is available in the Bethesda Beat voters guide.

Early voting started on Monday and runs through Nov. 2 between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Voters may cast a ballot at any of the 11 locations.

In the first three days of early voting, 69,755 Montgomery County residents cast ballots at the polls. That’s ahead of the 60,731 votes cast in the county in the first three days of early voting during the 2016 presidential election.

There are 50 ballot drop boxes in the county. Ballots are collected twice a day from each box.

On Election Day, polls will be open at 39 voting centers. Voters can cast ballots at any of the centers.

No election results will be released until every voter in line at the polls has voted.

“It’s going to be a long night. Patience is a virtue. Be kind to us and we will do our best,” Zelaya said, adding that he didn’t have a specific date for when all ballots are expected to be counted.

Zelaya urged residents to vote early — before the weekend and Election Day — to cut down on lines at the polls.

For residents who sent in a mail-in ballot and are considering also casting a provisional ballot, Zelaya said: Please don’t.

“If you have submitted your mail-in ballot and you have received a notification that it has been received, you are good to go,” he said. “You’re causing lines to be longer and slowing down the process for voters who still need to vote in person.”

“Out of the over 250,000 voters who have received the ‘received’ status notification, you are good to go. Let us do our part and we will process, tabulate, scan and canvass your ballot as soon as possible.”

Have a question?

To locate the nearest ballot drop box, text BOX and a ZIP code to 77788. The nearest early voting center and wait time for the line can be received by texting EV and a ZIP code to 77788.

The nearest voting center can be found by texting VC and a ZIP code to 77788.

The Board of Elections can be contacted at 240-777-8683 or elections@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.

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