Why should I vote?

Maryland voters will go to the polls this year with an open race for a U.S. Senate seat that could help determine control of the body. In addition, voters will choose all eight of the state’s U.S. Representatives — three of which are open seats.

Baltimore voters will decide on competitive races for mayor, City Council president and City Council members for Baltimore’s 14 districts.

Voters in Anne Arundel and Howard counties have school board primaries in select districts.

People 18 years old or older (or will be 18 years old at the time of the General Election on Nov. 5) can register to vote in either the primary or general elections. You must also be a U.S. citizen and a legal resident of Maryland.

Primary elections in Maryland are closed, meaning that only individuals registered as a member of a political party can vote in that party’s primary. You can select your party affiliation when you register to vote.

You are ineligible to vote if you are under guardianship for mental disability and found by a court to be unable to communicate a desire to vote or are in jail for a felony conviction. If you have been convicted of a felony and have completed a court-ordered sentence of imprisonment, you are eligible to vote. If you were convicted of buying or selling votes at any point in the past, however, you will not be eligible to vote.

College students from out of state studying in Maryland can vote in Maryland primary elections if they register to vote using their Maryland address. More information for students can be found here on the Maryland Board of Elections website.

Military personnel, military dependents and civilians living overseas may vote in Maryland elections if their current or most recent U.S. residence was in Maryland.

At the top of the ballot is the state’s presidential primary, though candidates have already clinched the nominations for the Democratic and Republican parties.

Maryland voters will fill an open U.S. Senate seat following Sen. Ben Cardin’s announcement that he will not seek another term. In addition, state residents will vote for all eight of Maryland’s members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Two, U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger and U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, have announced they are retiring, while U.S. Rep. David Trone is running for the Senate and will not seek reelection.

In Baltimore, voters will decide whether to give incumbent Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott a second term. Former Mayor Sheila Dixon, attorney Thiru Vignarajah and businessman Bob Wallace are among the Democratic contenders. There is also a Republican primary among three candidates.

Baltimore voters will also elect a City Council president and 14 City Council members, by district, this year.

In Anne Arundel County, there are primary elections in four of the county’s seven school board districts: 1, 3, 4 and 5. In Howard County, primaries will be held in three of the county’s five school board districts: 1, 4 and 5.

A final list of all primary election races and candidates can be found here.

Primary election ballots have been approved by the Maryland State Board of Elections, and can be viewed by jurisdiction here.

You can check your registration status via the Maryland Board of Elections website’s “Voter Lookup” page.

You can register to vote online using Maryland’s Online Voter Registration System (OLVR), where you can also request a mail-in ballot or update your name, address, party affiliation or all of the above.

If you prefer not to register digitally, you can submit a voter registration application, available for downloading and printing here, by mail or in person to your local board of elections or the State Board of Elections.

No. According to the Maryland Board of Elections website, anything confirming your residential address will suffice. This includes a driver’s license, but also bank statements, paychecks, utility bills, Social Security payments or any other government document with your name and address.

If you do not have a Motor Vehicle Administration-issued license or ID, you will need to provide the last four digits of your Social Security number. Your application will not be processed unless you provide this information or affirm, under penalty of perjury, that you do not have a Maryland driver’s license, MVA ID Card, or Social Security number, according to the elections board.

The registration deadline for the primary election is April 23. Online applications must be submitted before 11:59 p.m. on that date; mailed applications must be postmarked no later than April 23.

It is also possible to register to vote on Election Day, though this is not recommended by the elections board for reasons of convenience. If you do register on Election Day, you will need to bring the proof of address documents described above.

You should receive a voter notification card in the mail within three weeks of your application being processed. If you do not receive one, you should contact your local elections board or the Maryland Board of Elections via telephone at (410) 269-2840. You can also use the Voter Lookup page online to verify your registration.

If you cannot vote in person on Election Day, or don’t want to for any reason, you can request a mail-in ballot when you register to vote. This can be done online when using the OLVR tool, or via a mail-in voter registration application.

Your mailed request for a mail-in primary election ballot must be received by May 7.

Mail-in ballots can be requested in-person from your local board of elections up until Primary Day on May 14.

There will be detailed instructions for voting included with your mail-in ballot. Review them carefully — improperly filled-out ballots are usually discarded.

Do not sign your name or identify yourself anywhere on your mail-in ballot. The bar codes on the ballot do not apply to you specifically, but are instead used to make sure the correct ballot style is matched to the correct voter. More information on the identifying features of mail-in ballot packets can be found here.

Once you have properly filled out your ballot, it must be returned in person or through the mail. You can never submit a ballot online, by email or fax.

If you submit your ballot by mail, ensure it is postmarked no later than Election Day (May 14). If you use the envelope provided with your ballot, first-class postage is included and you won’t need to use your own postage stamps.

You may deliver your ballot in person by 8 p.m. to your local board of elections or a ballot drop box by the time polls close. You can also drop your ballot off at early voting locations. You cannot return a mail-in ballot to a standard polling place on Election Day.

If you vote by mail, you cannot vote during early voting or on Election Day.

There is no special registration required for early voting. Simply go to an early voting location and bring a proof of address. If you are not registered to vote, you can do so at the early voting center.

As with mail-in ballots, there are no special circumstances that dictate eligibility for early voting. Anyone can participate, so long as they are eligible to vote in Maryland.

You can change your address at an early voting polling place, but not your party affiliation. If you changed your name, you will have to vote under your old name; you can fill out a form to change your registered name that will be processed after the election.

Early voting works the same as voting on Election Day. Once you arrive, you will check in with an election judge and be provided a ballot which you will use to vote.

If you vote early, you cannot vote on Election Day or by mail ballot.

For the primary election, early voting will be held from Thursday, May 2, through Thursday, May 9, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., including weekends. You can vote at any early voting center in your county or Baltimore City.

A full list of early voting centers can be found here.

You must vote at your assigned polling place on Election Day in the primary election. You can find your assigned polling place using the Voter Lookup tool online.

John edits political coverage for The Baltimore Banner. Previously he's covered Washington, D.C. for WNYC public radio and politics and education in Maryland, South Carolina and Florida.