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Maryland Didn't Report any Primary Precinct Results, But Should in November

By Kelsey Johnson, Amber Primus, Morgan Minix, Jedd Ward and Jasmine Davis

In a normal year, Maryland only produces precinct-level election results from votes cast in-person on election day. This isn't a normal year.

The state's counties and Baltimore City published no precinct-level election results from the June primary election, which was primarily conducted by mail and at voting centers, although local election officials say they expect to be able to in November.

"No, I'm afraid due to the changes to our primary this year because of the COVID crisis, we did not report by precinct," Anthony Gutierrez, Election Director for Wicomico County, wrote in an email.

Baltimore County, which often has been politically competitive between Democrats and Republicans, used none of its regular precinct voting locations in June, directing voters to cast ballots by mail or in-person at four sites around the county, said Jeff Stevens of the county's Board of Elections. Stevens expects that in-person precinct reporting will resume for the general election, although many voters are expected to cast their ballots early or by mail due to the pandemic.

Maryland is unusual among states in that, by law, local election boards are prohibited by state law from publishing "the absentee vote" by precinct, so the precinct results files on the State Board of Elections website represent only in-person votes. Thirty-five percent of voters did not cast an in-person ballot on election day during the 2018 general election.

There is some indication that this could change, however. Donna Duncan, Assistant Deputy for Election Policy, said that due to changes in the state's databases, it would be possible to report precinct results for an all-mail election.

Precinct election results are an important part of enforcing the federal Voting Rights Act, particularly when it comes to the drawing of legislative districts, wrote David Lublin, a Professor of Government in the School of Public Affairs at American University. "Precinct election results are critical evidence for both bringing and defending redistricting cases under Section 2 of VRA," he wrote in May. "It is very important to match race and ethnicity data with those precinct election results because it allows the chance to give an approximate estimate turnout rates and candidate support levels."

Maryland, like other states, will redraw legislative districts in 2021, after the completion of the Census.

But it's not clear that all counties are prepared to report precinct results in November. "I do not yet know how the 2020 Presidential General results will be broken down other than by office," Susan M. Kreutter of the Prince George's County elections board wrote in an email, adding that the county board would likely decide closer to the election.

OpenElections contacted each of Maryland's voting jurisdictions to ask about precinct results for the primary and plans for November. In most cases, local officials said they expected to publish at least some precinct results for the general election. Alexandra Bresani of Howard County's Office of Public Information directed questions to the state.

Kelsey Johnson, Amber Primus, Morgan Minix, Jedd Ward and Jasmine Davis were summer interns with the OpenElections Project, supported by the Ida B. Wells Society For Investigative Reporting.