State Roundup: High court upholds early counting of mail-in ballots; voters to decide on forgiving marijuana possession crimes

State Roundup: High court upholds early counting of mail-in ballots; voters to decide on forgiving marijuana possession crimes

Early vote counting gets green-lighted by the Maryland high court. A ballot drop box located in Wheaton, Maryland, in 2020. (Karen Denny/ Capital News Service)

EARLY VOTE COUNT GIVEN GREEN LIGHT: Maryland’s highest court upheld a decision to allow early counting of mail-in ballots prior to the November election, overruling an argument raised by Republican governor candidate Dan Cox that the move is unconstitutional. Emily Opilo/The Baltimore Sun.

  • The ruling comes after an expedited legal battle between Cox and the State Board of Elections over a petition to suspend an outdated law that prohibits election officials from canvassing mail-in ballots until two days after the election — the only law of its kind in the country. Karina Elwood/The Washington Post.
  • The arguments before the court Friday centered around the definition of an emergency. Under state law, elections workers cannot start counting mail in ballots until after election day unless there is an emergency. Maryland was under a state of emergency declared by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2020 and the count could begin early. But that state of emergency has expired. Joel McCord/WYPR-FM.
  • The decision was a defeat for Republican gubernatorial hopeful Dan Cox, a state delegate from Frederick County. He fought the board’s request in Montgomery County Circuit Court, and after a judge there ruled for the elections board, Cox appealed that decision.  Bruce DePuyt/Maryland Matters.

VOTERS TO DECIDE ON FORGIVING POT CRIMES: While President Biden urged governors to waive simple possession of marijuana convictions in their states and local jurisdictions, Maryland voters won’t have to wait for Gov. Hogan or his successor to make the decision because the choice whether to forgive — and even expunge — simple possession of marijuana offenses is up to them as soon as November. Brenda Wintrode/The Baltimore Banner.

COX LAYS OUT VISION FOR TAXES, CRIME, EDUCATION: At a hotel meet and greet in Linthicum Thursday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox laid out his vision for the state, promising to cut property taxes, crack down on crime and give parents more of a say in their children’s education. Dana Munro/The Capital Gazette.

WHO IS WES MOORE? The Democrat who hopes to become Maryland’s governor has studied in South Africa and Great Britain, worked as an investment banker in London and New York, led paratroopers in Afghanistan, become a bestselling author, started a production company and run one of the largest U.S. nonprofits. Sam Janesch/The Baltimore Sun.

CANDIDATES FOR GOVERNOR FORUM: Please join us for an online virtual forum for the candidates for governor (Oct. 13) Here’s the flyer. Register there to see the governor forum live.  All the candidates on the ballot except Democrat Wes Moore chose to participate. The League of Women Voters is the lead sponsor along with,, Maryland Nonprofits, Maryland Latinos Unidos and the University of Baltimore’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy, the online host.

POLITICAL NOTES: HILLARY CLINTON AND JOHN HANCOCK: Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former Democratic presidential candidate and secretary of state, is scheduled to headline a virtual fundraiser for the Maryland Democratic Party that features gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore. The event on Oct. 25 is billed as “a conversation on leadership.” When presidential hopefuls trek to New Hampshire to speak at an event called Politics & Eggs, part of the deal is that they have to sign their John Hancock on a bunch of wooden eggs. It’s not as easy as it may look, according to Gov. Larry Hogan, who was there last week. Pamela Wood and John O’Connor/The Baltimore Banner.

BICYCLE ADVOCATES SEEK TO DELAY DEMOLITION OF NICE BRIDGE: As Maryland prepares to demolish the historic Nice/Middleton Bridge that connects the southern part of the state with Virginia over the Potomac River, bicycle advocates are seeking to delay those plans until the completion of an impact study. Nathaniel Cline/Maryland Matters.

POLL: HAIRE, PITTMAN TIED IN RACE FOR ARUNDEL EXEC: A poll conducted by Anne Arundel Community College shows the Anne Arundel County executive race is neck-and-neck between Republican Jessica Haire and Democrat incumbent Steuart Pittman with about a month until Election Day. Dana Munro/The Capital Gazette.

Former Howard County Executive speaks to crowd at his family’s farm in West Friendship, along with, from right, Gov. Larry Hogan, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Maryland photo by Len Lazarick

HOGAN GIVES BOOST TO KITTLEMAN’s RUN FOR HOWARD EXEC: Republican Allan Kittleman got a boost Saturday from Gov. Larry Hogan and two lieutenant governors — one current, one former – as he seeks to regain the job as county executive he lost four years to Democrat Calvin Ball. Len Lazarick/Maryland Reporter.

NEUROSCIENTIST URGES VOTE AGAINST RECREATIONAL CANNABIS: Flanked by a handful of protesters outside a Timonium medical cannabis dispensary on Saturday afternoon, neuroscientist Dr. Christine Miller raised a sign with a bolded bullet-point list of “the social costs of cannabis.” Poor academic performance, it said — and psychotic symptoms; cardiac problems such as stroke or arrhythmia; depression and suicidal behavior. Miller, a Towson resident and former Johns Hopkins University researcher, organized the protest to urge passersby to vote against a Nov. 8 referendum to legalize adult-use recreational cannabis in Maryland. Taylor DeVille/The Baltimore Banner.

MO CO PLANNING BOARD DIRECTOR FIRED: The Montgomery County Planning Board announced that it removed the Planning Department’s director, Gwen Wright, after an unscheduled closed board meeting Friday afternoon, the latest episode in a series of controversies to hit the county’s planning board and department amid a contested development plan. Daniel Wu/The Washington Post.

  • The termination is the latest in a series of controversies that have rocked the board and Planning Department recently. Wright said the Planning Board moved to fire her by a vote of 4-0 in a closed session Friday. Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, who has also been in the news lately, was absent, she said. Steve Bohnel/Bethesda Beat.
  • Anderson strongly denied allegations Friday that he had made comments that created a “toxic misogynistic and hostile workplace,” a claim that was made in an email sent to Planning Board Member Carol Rubin and Marlene Michaelson, executive director of the County Council, by someone within the county’s Planning Department. Steve Bohnel/Bethesda Beat.

HOWARD SCHOOLS GET NEW SECURITY OFFICER: Ian Rifield doesn’t have the typical resume of a Howard County public school official. Before coming to HCPSS, Rifield, 59, was a U.S. Secret Service agent for more than 20 years, assigned to multiple presidential details and teams, from the Counter Assault Team to the Airspace Security Branch. But Rifield, who lives in Anne Arundel County, comes from a family of educators, and when he saw an opening in the Howard school system, he applied. Ethan Ehrenjaft/Baltimore Sun Media.

About The Author

Cynthia Prairie

Contributing Editor Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor since 1979, when she began working at The Raleigh Times. Since then, she has worked for The Baltimore News American, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Prince George’s Journal and Baltimore County newspapers in the Patuxent Publishing chain, including overseeing The Jeffersonian when it was a two-day a week business publication. Cynthia has won numerous state awards, including the Maryland State Bar Association’s Gavel Award. Besides compiling and editing the daily State Roundup, she runs her own online newspaper, The Chester Telegraph. If you have additional questions or comments contact Cynthia at:

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