FACT: The mail-in ballot envelope design is based on best practice guidelines for election mail design for easy recognition and priority handling. The color stripe is used statewide in Maryland and does not indicate political party affiliation.
Rumor: The colored stripe on the mail-in ballot envelopes indicates my political party affiliation.
FACT: You can't cast a ballot received by mail or email at a voting center. 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. If voters are allowed to "trade-in" the ballot they received in the mail or email or cast their mail-in ballot at an early voting center or election day vote center, this audit and other reconciliations could not be performed.
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 "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: I received a ballot by mail or email and can "trade it" to vote in person.
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. Click here to learn more about the barcodes and other numbers on your ballot packet.
Rumor: There is a tracking number on each ballot.
FACT: If you use the envelope that comes with your ballot, 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: Adding a stamp to your return envelope means your ballot will be returned via first-class mail.
FACT: You can vote in person if you have requested a mail-in ballot, 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 you request a mail-in ballot, you can vote in person.
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 canvass ballots while also serving the public. We ask for your patience when tracking your ballot as staff are working as quickly as possible.
Rumor: If my ballot isn’t counted by election day, it won’t be counted.
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: Early votes and mail-in ballot votes are not counted unless there is a tie in an election.
FACT: You will receive the same ballot whether you are voting during early voting, on election day or by absentee ballot. Your ballot is always determined by your residential address.
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: Mail-in ballots and provisional ballots are always counted, even if they do not change the outcome of an election. You can learn more about voting by mail and provisional voting on our website.
Rumor: Mail-in ballots and provisional ballots only count if the election is close.
FACT: Ballot drop-off boxes are operated and maintained by the local election officials. Ballot drop-off boxes are monitored and secured by trusted election officials. Ballots are retrieved from the boxes at least once daily by election officials. The drop-off boxes are not the property of the United States Postal Service.
Rumor: The ballot drop-off boxes are operated and maintained by the United States Postal Services.
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.
If a voter wants to vote a mail-in ballot, the voter must complete an application. Once received, the local board of election will process the application. This voter’s record now reflects that the voter will receive a mail-in ballot for this election.
When ballots are ready, the State Board of Elections sends the list of requesting voters to a mailhouse vendor. The mailhouse vendor produces and mails the ballot packets. When the local boards receive voted ballots, they make a note in the voter’s record that a voted mail-in ballot has been received. (This notation will be included in the list of eligible voters sent to early voting centers and polling places. If this voter appears to vote in person, the voter will only be able to vote a provisional ballot, which will later be rejected because the voter already voted.) If a voter has an email address on file with the election office, the voter will receive a notice that the ballot has been received by the election office. Voters can also track their ballot here.
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: The process for using ballot drop-off boxes is not legitimate and they should not be used.
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 email@example.com to report incorrect election-related information on social media, such as:
Rumor: There are posts on social media displaying incorrect election information.
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.
However, we encourage voting selfies with your “I Voted” sticker after exiting the voting location or a selfie while inserting your ballot into a ballot drop-off box. Please post voting selfies with #MDvotes (but keep your ballot selections and personally identifiable information private)!
Rumor: I can take pictures or record a video in a voting room.
FACT: 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: I already voted but changed my mind. I can vote again.
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: When I vote, I get a receipt or confirmation of my vote.
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: Election systems are not secure.
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 we use has security vulnerabilities.
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: The voting system does not always perform as expected.
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: I voted for Candidate A, but my vote flipped to Candidate B.
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: A college student can only register to vote at his or her parents' address.
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: To prove you voted, you will get a second copy of the form you sign when you check in to vote.
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: Election judges will not post election results once the polls close.
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: Results are declared before all ballots are counted.
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: Voters can submit voted ballots online.>
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.
Rumor: Maryland requires signature verification.