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by Diane Bernard, Public News Service

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — With mail-in voting for the presidential election becoming a partisan issue across the nation, a coalition of lawmakers and activist groups in Maryland is protesting in Annapolis Wednesday to demand Gov. Larry Hogan drop his plan for in-person voting in November.

Protesters say Hogan’s decision amounts to voter suppression since many residents will be unable to leave their homes to vote in the middle of a deadly pandemic. Mike Tidwell is the executive director at Chesapeake Climate Action Network, one of the sponsors of the demonstration. He said he believes Hogan’s decision was intended to curry favor with President Donald Trump.

“It seems like Gov. Hogan is bowing to Donald Trump, who’s telling all the Republican governors, ‘Suppress the vote. Don’t let people vote by mail,'” Tidwell said. “And in the process, we’re exposing people to a pandemic. It’s immoral. It’s wrong.”

This week, Hogan defended his decision to hold a traditional election in November, citing the chaos that occurred during the June 2 primary, which used mail-in ballots. More people opted to vote in person in the primary, resulting in long lines and hours-long waits.

Tidwell argued the long lines were because fewer polling stations were open during the primary. He said the primary had a record turnout and was considered a success. And he advocates for using mail-in ballots in the fall because otherwise the most vulnerable voters will be put at risk.

“It’s the communities of color who are most vulnerable to this effort by Larry Hogan to make people vote in person or to go through a confusing absentee-ballot process that’s unnecessary and bureaucratic,” he said.

Tidwell said the protest also is honoring Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who died last week from pancreatic cancer. He said Lewis devoted his career to making sure everybody had access to voting.

“It is ironic and tragic that we now have this contrast of a civil-rights leader who just passed away so we can all vote at the same time that Larry Hogan is making it harder to vote,” Tidwell said.