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—– By: Ann Costantino —–
Did you receive an absentee ballot, but did not request one? Here’s what happened to a Baltimore Post reporter on Election Day.
Last month, a Baltimore Post reporter received an unsolicited absentee ballot in the mail. Rather than correct the error, or vote as an absentee, the reporter decided to go through the voting process to see what would happen.
The first step was to contact the local and state election boards last month. A Baltimore County elections official told the reporter that as long as she did not vote as an absentee, the voter could show up on Election Day and vote via the traditional process.
This turned out not to be the case.
An official from the State Board of Elections, however, told the reporter that a provisional ballot would be offered on Election Day. That is exactly what happened.
At 11:30 am on Election Day, the reporter showed up to vote and, after verifying her name and address at check-in, was told that she had been sent an absentee ballot. A discussion ensued as to whether or not the reporter had sent in her ballot by mail. She had not.
An election judge was called over, and a process began to obtain a provisional ballot. The reporter asked if she could take photos of the paperwork with her camera, documenting each step of the process. That request was denied.
Step One was to fill out a form – signed under penalty of perjury – which asked for a reason for the provisional ballot. The options presented were: new registration, name change, party affiliation change, or address change. Since none of the options applied to the reporter, she was asked to leave the section blank. Also requested on the form was a Maryland driver’s license or Maryland Vehicle Administration (MVA) ID number. This information was mandatory. Lastly, name, address, contact information, and the last four digits of the reporter’s social security number were requested on the form.
Step Two was to vote using the provisional ballot. The reporter sat in voter reception area, with her back to the front door, with passersby walking right behind. A tri-fold cardboard privacy screen was set up to protect the voter’s privacy.
Once voting selections were completed, Step Three was to fold the ballot into three sections and slip it into a secure envelope. (The election official was not permitted to secure the ballot into the envelope. He merely held it open for the reporter.) The reporter was then asked to take the now-sealed envelope and slide it in to the tight slot of a bright orange canvass sack that resembled a biomedical hazard waste bag.
Once the ballot was cast, the reporter asked how she could track her ballot to ensure that her votes were counted. The reporter was told that she was the fourth case that day in which an absentee ballot had been sent, yet not requested.
Here’s what you, too, can do if you have found yourself in the same boat and are a registered Baltimore County voter who was sent an absentee ballot that you did not request, nor use:
- Wait two weeks from today’s election.
- Call the Baltimore County Board of Elections at 410-887-5700.
- Inform election officials that you were sent an unsolicited absentee ballot, did not send it in, but were required to vote on Election Day using a provisional ballot. Elections officials will need to know the polling location or precinct number.
- Ask about your ballot and ensure that your votes were counted.