Maryland’s state elections board voted Friday to significantly reduce the number of places where voters can cast ballots on Election Day in November, a proposal aimed at accommodating a shortage of poll workers while avoiding voter confusion and crowded precincts during the coronavirus pandemic.

The five-member board’s recommendation to Gov. Larry Hogan calls for using 282 public high schools or better sites as “vote centers” where any registered voter in a particular county could cast a ballot on Nov. 3. Board members also expressed support for keeping the state's roughly 80 early-voting centers open on Nov. 3.

Hogan's office had not commented on the vote on Friday night.

Board members are scheduled to meet Wednesday and say they will move ahead with the plan if Hogan does not respond by then. 

The state's current election format calls for having roughly 80 early-voting centers and opening up to 1,800 precinct-based polling places, with voters required to cast ballots at their local precincts. Vote centers would be larger forums than precincts, which could make it easier to maintain social distancing rules, according to local election officials.

Board members said they don't have the authority to create vote centers and acknowledged that Hogan may reject their unanimous recommendation. The Republican governor has issued a directive to hold a traditional in-person election and has said local election officials must open all polling locations and early-voting centers for the general election. Read more at WBAL