Maryland judge rules mail-in ballot count can begin this weekend

A Maryland appeals court has rejected a request by Maryland’s Republican gubernatorial nominee to delay counting of mail-in ballots that could start as soon as Saturday.

An order Thursday by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals denied an emergency request by lawyers for Dan Cox to halt a plan allowing the counting of mail-in ballots before Election Day. This week’s one-paragraph order was signed by Judge Douglas Nazarian on behalf of a three-judge panel that considered the motion.

READ MORE: Judge rules Maryland can count ballots before Election Day

While the ruling clears the way for counties to start processing ballots on Saturday, it’s not clear how many will start that soon. The Baltimore Sun reports that a vendor for the state didn’t start mailing ballots until Thursday and some won’t be mailed out until next week.

A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge had previously granted the Maryland State Board of Elections’ request to allow local elections officials to begin canvassing mail-in ballots on Oct. 1, instead of waiting until after Nov. 8. That judge reasoned that the volume of mail-in ballots would otherwise prevent local boards of election from verifying the vote count within 10 days of the general election as required.

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Cox, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is challenging Democrat Wes Moore to replace Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is term-limited.

Counting mail-in ballots before Election Day was allowed in 2020 during a state of emergency, when voting by mail increased due to the pandemic. But because the state of emergency expired, the state returned to a law that doesn’t allow mail-in ballots to be counted until after Election Day.

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Last month, the state elections board voted to file an emergency petition in hopes of speeding up the vote count for mail-in ballots, which have become much more popular. Without the change, board members have said that local, statewide, and even federal contests could be left without certified results until late December or early January.