With the upcoming 2020 General Election coinciding with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Montgomery County, Maryland, chapter of Teens Helping Seniors (MCMDTHS) will be providing voting support. As of right now, MCMDTHS plans to be involved in this civic process through multiple avenues.

  • Disseminating Voter Education Flyers with essential information during deliveries
  • Assisting seniors in requesting online ballots through the THS Call Service Team
  • Handing out paper mail-in ballot requests during deliveries (if interest is indicated by the senior)
  • Collecting paper/mail requests and/or delivering them to the Board of Elections (BOE) for seniors
  • Picking up/collecting completed ballots and delivering them in official ballot boxes by Election Day — Tuesday, November 3, 2020
  • Select individuals serving as poll workers since there is a lack of the required number of officials to work in early voting and election day voting centers

In researching and collecting information to share with the THS community, MCMDTHS worked with Maryland-based community activist, volunteer, blogger, writer, and speaker Amy Yontef-McGrath. Yontef-McGrath was recognized as the 2019 Volunteer of the Year by Montgomery County for her work on 50 service projects, detailed on her blog Follow Me to 50! 

Yontef-McGrath had originally planned to spend time this summer canvassing in person, but due to COVID-19 has been phone banking instead, as she is passionate about ensuring safe and proper voting procedures and fair voting rights.As such, the majority of the following information is Maryland-centric, but similar processes take place nationwide. Certain practices will be different depending on the state you are voting in, so it is important to consult with your state’s Board of Elections and to vote as early as possible. Yontef-McGrath recommends checking out the Women’s League of Voters website to find non-partisan summaries of the candidates in your specific area.

3 Common Myths addressed by Yontef-McGrath

  1. I have to have a reason to vote using a mail-in/absentee ballot (ex: I will be out of the state traveling): NO. There is no reason that needs to be stated to request a mail-in/absentee ballot in Maryland. In fact, it is encouraged for this General Election due to COVID-19 that everyone at least requests a mail-in ballot as the situation in terms of public health and safety continues changing.
  2. I want to vote in person if feasible and by requesting/receiving a mail-in/absentee ballot, I take away my right to change my mind and/or later vote in person: NO. You may request and/or receive a mail-in/absentee ballot and choose later to vote in person rather than using it. In Maryland, in this case, you would likely be casting what is called a provisional ballot, but it counts all the same.
  3. A mail-in/absentee ballot doesn’t have the same value as an in-person vote. NO. Every vote counts no matter the method it is done — whether in person or by mail. EARLY voting by either mode is also very important.

An example of a Maryland mail-in ballot application and a THS-designed infographic can be referred to in conjunction with this post. Marylanders have until October 13th, 2020 to register to vote for the 2020 General Election. All requests for Maryland mail-in ballots must be made by October 20th, 2020. The four main ways to make a request are as follows:

  1. Paper Application – Yontef-McGrath notes this option is safe, simple, and a viable option for seniors.
  2. Online, by visiting the MD Voter Service Site (requires a driver’s license) 
  3. Texting VBM to 777-88 OR VPC 777-88 (en espanol)
  4. In-person, by visiting your local election office if permitted, and requesting a mail-in ballot.
pamphlet informing voters about requesting mail-in ballots for 2020 elections using paper application, online, text, or in-person for Maryland

Due to COVID-19, it is encouraged for this General Election that everyone at least requests mail-in ballots (refer to Common Myths addressed by Yontef-McGrath regarding this). There has been recent speculation that all Maryland residents will be sent mail-in ballot APPLICATIONS, which differ from the specific ballot that residents were sent for the primary. Residents have to take an extra step to apply for their ballot, but it seems the applications will be sent to them. Most seniors should have received their mail-in ballot application recently or will receive it in the coming week. If they haven’t they should use one of the four steps above to request one.

Individuals can track their ballots with this Voter Lookup feature on the MD State BOE website as it takes a few weeks for confirmation to be emailed that a ballot request has been received.

When it comes to submitting ballots in Maryland, there are two main avenues:

  1. Mail-In (by November 3rd, 2020):
    1. Hand deliver the ballot to a designated ballot box (or communicate with a THS volunteer to have your mail-in ballot delivered to a designated box for you)
      1. Yontef-McGrath notes this option is safe, easy, avoids USPS delays, and cuts down on ‘middle-men’
    2. Mail the ballot to a voting location or your local Board of Elections (may be delayed so sending EARLY is important)
  2. In-Person (from October 26th, 2020 to November 2nd, 2020 between 7 am and 8 pm). Locations will be announced on the MD State BOE website
pamphlet informing voters about submitting ballots for 2020 elections using mail-in (by Nov. 3rd) or in person (Oct 26-Nov 2) for Maryland.

MCMDTHS is committed to providing support and ensuring that ballots are delivered accurately and accounted for in an organized manner. Seniors requesting our voting services should ensure they communicate with MCMDTHS if they have specific requests and that they fill out their applications, and subsequently their ballots early so those can be delivered in a timely manner. It is important to note that information is constantly being modified regarding the 2020 General Election due to changes with COVID-19. Please always check the MD State BOE website for the most up-to-date information for voting in Maryland.

You may be wondering, how can THS maintain a level of trust between its volunteers and the seniors they serve when it comes to voting? As Yontef-McGrath noted, trust is the biggest component in providing services like this.

The beauty of THS doing this with established clients is that seniors have been counting on their volunteers to attain food safely, to wipe it down, and to deliver it, so the hope is that that goodwill and positive reputation transfers to a level of comfort with voting. We wouldn’t want any senior to be uncomfortable voting, so hopefully they have a feeling of trust through this established relationship, knowing [THS] has provided safe deliveries and this would be something in the same manner.

Additionally, ballot applications and ballots can be fully sealed before being hand-delivered, so no personal information will be shared with teens. It is important that seniors be proactive in communicating their needs and that they feel comfortable asking for help or questions with any part of the process. 


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