Rumor: The colored stripe on the mail-in ballot envelopes indicates my political party affiliation.
FACT: The mail-in ballot envelope design is based on best practice guidelines for election mail design for easy recognition and priority handling by the USPS. The color stripe is used statewide in Maryland and does not indicate political party affiliation.
Rumor: I can bring the ballot I received in the mail or email and cast it during early voting or on election day.
FACT: You can't cast a ballot received by mail or email at a voting location. If you received a ballot in the mail or via email, you must either vote and return that ballot or vote a provisional ballot during early voting or on election day.
Election officials perform audits throughout the entire election process. One of the audits they perform compares the number of ballots issued against the number of ballots counted.
Rumor: I received a ballot by mail or email and can "trade it" to vote in person.
FACT: You can't "trade-in" the ballot you received by mail or email and cast the ballot during early voting or on election day. If you requested a ballot and want to vote in person, you will have to vote a provisional ballot. An election judge will give you a provisional ballot application and a ballot to vote. Your voted ballot will be placed and sealed inside the application envelope and will be counted as long as you don't return the ballot you received by mail or email.
Rumor: There is a tracking number on each ballot.
FACT: There is not a tracking number on each ballot. There is a tracking number associated with each ballot packet, but not the ballot. The only barcode on the ballot is one used to make sure the correct ballot style is matched to the correct voter.
Rumor: Adding a stamp to your return envelope means your ballot will be returned via first-class mail.
FACT: If you use the envelope that comes with your mail-in ballot and mail it, it will be returned via first-class mail. You don't need to add a stamp for your ballot to go via first-class mail - it's already going via first-class mail.
Rumor: If you request a mail-in ballot, you can vote in person.
FACT: If you requested a mail-in ballot, you can can vote in person but you must vote a provisional ballot. Your provisional ballot will count if you do not also vote and return your mail-in ballot.
Rumor: If my ballot isn’t counted by election day, it won’t be counted.
FACT: Every mail-in ballot is counted in each election. It may take time for your ballot status to update since there are many ballots being received and processed. Election staff work quickly and accurately to sort, batch, scan, and count ballots while also serving the public. We ask for your patience when tracking your ballot as staff are working as quickly as possible.
Rumor: Early votes and mail-in ballot votes are not counted unless there is a tie in an election.
FACT: All votes cast during early voting are counted. All mail-in ballots submitted on time with the required signature are counted even if they will not change the outcome of an election. Votes cast during early voting and by mail-in ballot count just like votes cast on election day.
Rumor: If I vote during early voting, I will not receive the same ballot as the one I would receive on election day and therefore my ballot will not be counted.
FACT: You will receive the same ballot whether you are voting during early voting, on election day or by mail-in ballot.
Rumor: The ballot drop boxes are operated and maintained by the United States Postal Services.
FACT: Ballot drop boxes are operated and maintained by the local election officials. Ballot drop boxes are monitored and secured by trusted election officials. Ballots are retrieved from the boxes at least once daily by election officials. The drop boxes are not the property of the United States Postal Service.
Rumor: The process for using ballot drop-off boxes is not legitimate and they should not be used.
FACT: Under State law, the local boards of elections approve proposed locations for ballot boxes, and the State Administrator reviews and if appropriate, approves the proposed locations. This is the list of all approved ballot boxes. The boxes at these locations also include “Official Ballot Drop Box” and look like the picture below.
State law does not prohibit a voter from giving permission for another individual to deliver the voter’s completed ballot in a sealed and signed envelope to an election office, a USPS mailbox, or a ballot drop box.
Rumor: There are posts on social media displaying incorrect election information.
FACT: Always follow the Maryland State Board of Elections on Facebook at @MarylandStateBoardofElections or on Twitter and Instagram at @md_sbe. We will always post accurate election-related information on social media. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to report incorrect election-related information on social media, such as:
Rumor: I can take pictures or record a video in a voting room.
FACT: Under State law, voters can't take pictures or record a video in a voting room. Voters are not allowed to use electronic devices - including phones or tablets - in a voting room unless the device is being used at check-in to display ID or proof of residency.
However, we encourage selfies with your “I Voted” sticker after exiting the voting location or a selfie while inserting your ballot into a ballot drop box. Please post voting selfies with #MDvotes.
Rumor: I already voted but changed my mind. I can vote again.
FACT: Election officials only count one ballot for each voter. The ballot that counts is usually the first one you vote. If you attempt to vote more than once in the same election, you will have to vote a provisional ballot. This ballot will not be counted because you have already voted and you will be referred to a law enforcement agency for further investigation and possible prosecution.
Rumor: When I vote, I get a receipt or confirmation of my vote.
FACT: To preserve the secrecy of your vote, you will not get a receipt or confirmation of your vote.
Before scanning your paper ballot, review your ballot. Make sure you voted for all of the contests you want to vote for and are satisfied with your selections. If you are happy with your selections, scan your ballot into the scanning unit. When the scanning unit has counted your ballot, you will see "thank you for voting" message. If the scanning unit can't read your ballot for some reason, the unit will return the ballot and provide instructions on the screen. You can also check that the scanning unit has counted your ballot by looking at the counter on the scanning unit's screen. Look at the count before and after you scan your ballot. You see the count go up by one. This means that the scanning unit has counted your ballot.
Each scanner is tested before the election. After local election officials have verified that the scanners count properly, the scanner is locked and sealed. Before voting begins, election officials verify the seal and open the scanner.
Rumor: Election systems are not secure.
FACT: We've read the recent news articles about the security of election systems and want to share how we secure Maryland's election systems. Simply put, Maryland's election systems are secure, have built-in redundancies, and have been subject to security testing.
We are now using a paper-based voting system. This means that there is a paper record of every vote cast, and these ballots can be retabulated if needed. The voting equipment is never connected to the Internet. The network used to generate official election results is never connected to the Internet. Physical access to the network is restricted and limited to election officials - all of whom have had a security background check - and all network transactions are logged. More information on the security features and practices for Maryland's voting system is available here.
Maryland uses a single voting system – Elections Systems and Software (ES&S) – in every jurisdiction in the state. Each voting unit is tested prior to each election, and election officials perform post-election audits to verify the accuracy of the voting system’s results. (A third party performs an automated ballot tabulation audit, and bipartisan teams of election officials perform manual audits.) To maximize transparency, the Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) posts the results of these audits online. In addition, the ES&S system enables every voter in Maryland to cast or print a paper ballot, ensuring each voter can review an official voting record to confirm the accuracy of his or her ballot selections. Election officials also follow strict chain of custody procedures and use tamper-evident seals to secure equipment. The ES&S voting system was certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in 2015 and is used by jurisdictions throughout the country. More information about election security in Maryland can be found here.
We use other systems to administer the election process, but these systems are not part of the voting casting or counting process. Two frequently discussed systems are voter registration databases and online voter registration systems. The voter registration database is the system where voter registration information, voting history, absentee voting requests, and other data is stored. An online voter registration system is a web-based system voters use to submit a new voter registration application, submit updated voter registration information, or request an absentee ballot. While these systems are connected to the Internet, access is via a secure network, all data is encrypted, and the systems are continuously monitored and audited. More information on the security features and practices of Maryland's voter registration systems is available here.
Rumor: The voting system we use has security vulnerabilities.
FACT: Maryland uses a single voting system – Elections Systems and Software (ES&S) – in every jurisdiction in the state. Each voting unit is tested prior to each election, and election officials perform post-election audits to verify the accuracy of the voting system’s results. (A third party performs an automated ballot tabulation audit, and bipartisan teams of election officials perform manual audits.) To maximize transparency, the Maryland State Board of Elections (SBE) posts the results of these audits online. The ES&S machines used in Maryland are not equipped with modems and are never connected to the internet. In addition, the ES&S system enables every voter in Maryland to cast or print a paper ballot, ensuring each voter can review an official voting record to confirm the accuracy of his or her ballot selections. Election officials also follow strict chain of custody procedures and use tamper-evident seals to secure equipment. The ES&S voting system was certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in 2015 and is used by jurisdictions throughout the country. More information about election security in Maryland can be found here.
Rumor: The voting system does not always perform as expected.
FACT: The local boards of elections all perform logic and accuracy (L&A) testing on all voting equipment used prior to each election. This testing confirms the logic and the accuracy of the voting equipment at the same time - they are not separate tests. You can review the results of this testing at the public demonstration held by each local board of election office.
L&A testing is performed with “perfect” ballots - that is, ballots that are generated by the printer according to the State’s logic - because the purpose of this test is to test that it is counting ballots accurately. If a voter’s mark cannot be read by the scanning unit, the scanning unit will return the ballot.
- During early voting or on election day, the voter can correct the mark so that the scanning unit can read it or instruct the election judge to override the message and accept the ballot as initially marked. If the voter decides to accept the ballot as initially marked, the contest with the unreadable mark will not be counted but all other marks will be counted.
- During the counting of mail-in ballots (regardless of how the voter returned the ballot), if a scanning unit cannot read a mark on a mail-in ballot, the local board of canvassers will decide whether the voter’s intent is clear. If the intent is clear, the ballot will be copied by a bi-partisan team of election officials and scanned. If the voter’s intent is not clear, the election officials will override the message and the scanning unit will not count the contest with the unreadable mark but will count all other marks. This process is performed during a public meeting of the local board of canvassers. The canvasses for the upcoming election are open to the public to observe the careful and deliberative process performed by the members of the local boards of elections.
Rumor: I voted for Candidate A, but my vote flipped to Candidate B.
FACT: Most voters in Maryland will use a paper ballot to vote. With paper ballots, a vote for Candidate A cannot "flip" to Candidate B.
Some voters will use the accessible ballot marking device to make selections and print a paper ballot. Each device is tested before election day, and the test includes checking that the device's screen is properly calibrated.
Rumor: A college student can only register to vote at his or her parents' address.
FACT: A college student may register at his or her school address if the student considers the school address to be his or her “official” or “permanent” home. If you are a college student and do not consider your parent’s home to be your home and do not intend to return there after school, your school address may be your residence. Before registering to vote at this address, please verify with the appropriate authority whether changing your residency impacts your eligibility for financial aid. Read more about this.
Rumor: To prove you voted, you will get a second copy of the form you sign when you check in to vote.
FACT: Upon request, a pollworker will give you a form to prove that you voted, but the form will be different from the form you sign when you check in to vote. If you need proof that you voted, please ask a pollworker.
Rumor: Election judges will not post election results once the polls close.
FACT: During early voting, election results will not be posted. The local boards of elections will post these results after the polls close on election day.
On election day, election judges will post results once the polls close. Election results will also be available from SBE and the local boards of elections.
Rumor: Results are declared before all ballots are counted.
FACT: Maryland does not “call” election results on election day. News media outlets may announce projected winning candidates based on exit polling and unofficial results reporting but results aren’t official until we process all early voting, election day, mail-in, and provisional ballots.
Rumor: Voters can submit voted ballots online.
FACT: A voter who receives a mail-in ballot from SBE's website must return the ballot by mail or ballot drop-off box.
Rumor: Maryland requires signature verification.
FACT: The local boards verify that the oath is signed but do not perform signature verification. A voter must complete an application to receive a mail-in ballot and the return ballot envelope must contain a signed oath for the ballot to be accepted. State law would need to be changed to require signature verification.