Dan Cox addresses the press outside a courthouse in 2022. Credit: Ginny Bixby

A state appellate court judge on Thursday threw out Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Cox’s appeal of last week’s court decision to allow mail-in ballot canvassing to begin before the November general election.

On Friday, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge ruled the Maryland State Board of Elections can start processing mail-in ballots Oct. 1 for the Nov. 8 general election.

The state elections board had filed a petition to the court to suspend a state law that prohibits the opening of mail-in ballots before the Wednesday after an election. The state elections board petitioned for the exception after jurisdictions received an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots during the July primary election, which resulted in weeks of ballot canvassing. About 75,000 mail-in ballots were counted in Montgomery County alone. The state elections board predicts more than 1 million mail-in ballots will be submitted in Maryland in the general election.

Cox filed a challenge to the state elections board’s petition, with his counsel arguing in a hearing last week that an increase in mail-in ballots does not constitute an emergency because more voters started using mail-in ballots after the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020 and therefore it is not a new practice.

Cox’s lawyers had filed the appeal in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals Tuesday morning. The state filed a motion early Thursday in opposition to Cox’s emergency motion for an appeal. Judge Douglas Nazarian signed an order for a panel of the court denying Cox’s motion.  The judge’s opinion was unavailable Thursday evening.

Local boards of elections will now be allowed to start processing ballots beginning Saturday.