Rockville Preparing for Vote-By-Mail Election
City will be first in Maryland to adopt the practice
Rockville city officials are preparing for the city’s first municipal election in which voters mail their ballots, with the goal of increasing voter participation. The election, which includes mayor and city council races, will be held Nov. 5.
The city council approved the practice in April 2018, joining 22 states that allow voting by mail. The Washington Post reported at the time that Rockville would be the first city in Maryland to do so.
Under the system, registered voters who live within the city limits of Rockville will be mailed ballots in early October. Voters can fill out ballots and mail them back or deliver them to City Hall.
City Clerk and Director of Council Operations Sara Taylor-Ferrell said in an interview Tuesday that the number of registered voters has risen from 40,749 in November 2015, the last municipal election, to 43,984 this month.
Rockville has a population of more than 68,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Voter turnout has been around 16% for the last three municipal elections, Taylor-Ferrell said, calling it a worrisome trend.
“We’re not really sure why we don’t get the voter participation. We had 10 polling places in those previous elections,” she said.
Taylor-Ferrell said holding local elections during off years when no state or federal races are occurring factors into the low turnout rate. She and the council hope the new mail ballot system will increase participation.
Three postcards with information about voting by mail have been mailed to registered voters since March, she said. Additionally, the city has increased its social media outreach and has set up a text alert system to inform residents of important dates.
Rockville residents who don’t live at home, such as college students and veterans, can participate by registering to vote at an alternative address, she said.
Residents can visit https://www.rockvillemd.gov/415/Voting-Elections and type in their address to determine whether they live within the city limits. Voters must be registered by Sept. 20 to receive a ballot in the mail, but may register on Election Day at city hall to vote in person.
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