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Judge rules Maryland boards of elections can count mail-in ballots before Election Day

September 23rd, 2022 by WCBC Radio

A judge ruled Friday afternoon that Maryland boards of elections can start counting mail-in ballots before Election Day.

The Maryland State Board of Elections filed an emergency petition to ask a judge to let local boards of election begin canvassing mail-in ballots in October instead of after the Nov. 8 election as mandated by state law.

Maryland Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Cox took legal action in an attempt to block the SBE's emergency petition. The two sides appeared in court Tuesday before Montgomery County Circuit Court Administrative Judge James A. Bonifant.

The judge said his ruling applies to the November 2022 general election and that "the court is not setting public policy." Per the ruling, ballots can be counted as early as Oct. 1, but results would not be released until election night.

The SBE considered this is an emergency. Cox said it's unconstitutional and that there's no emergency, saying it was known there would be more mail.

In his ruling, the judge said Friday that rather than being unconstitutional, the power to a make this change is granted to him by the constitution.

An assistant attorney general for Maryland who argued Tuesday on behalf of the SBE told the judge, "There is solid precedent that the court has the power" to do this after the Maryland Court of Appeals adjusted the primary election date.

The SBE said that if local boards of elections couldn't start to count mail-in ballots before Election Day, election results could be delayed until 2023, and that could impact the swearing-in of some local offices