Here’s why Maryland’s primary results may not be known for days

On election night, counties will report Election Day votes and early-in person votes. But election officials cannot begin canvassing mail ballots until Thursday. The canvassing process is when election officials open, verify and count ballots.

With more voters opting to vote by mail in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the longstanding law is now more likely to impact when winners are projected in the state.

Nearly 500,000 Marylanders requested a mail ballot for this year’s primary — a record for a midterm primary in the state, according to the board of elections. As of Sunday, more than 190,000 had been returned, according to data from the board. For comparison, in the 2018 primary election, just about 30,000 ballots were cast by mail.

In 2020, during the first year of the pandemic, GOP Gov. Larry Hogan allowed election officials to count mail ballots early. Democrats in the state legislature moved to make the change permanent this year, but Hogan vetoed that bill in May.

When he vetoed it, Hogan said he supported changing the timeline of canvassing mail ballots but rejected the bill because it didn’t include a signature verification process. Maryland is the only state that has a two-day waiting period before opening mail ballots.

While some results will be delayed, some races could still be projected on election night and in the immediate days that follow. The state board of elections expects the final certification of the election will be the week of August 8.

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